PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. — Great news for walkers, runners, and bicyclists in Pinellas County: Very soon you will be able to travel 75 miles on the Pinellas County Duke Energy Trail loop. Pinellas County leaders just finished a crucial segment of the trail on a project that started in 1990.
The new 6.7-mile trail segment stretches from Enterprise Road in Clearwater through Countryside to John Chestnut Sr. Park in Palm Harbor.
It completes the North Gap of the planned Pinellas Trail Loop, a continuous 75-mile multi-use pathway that will circle the County.
The Pinellas Duke Energy Trail is complete except for some minor improvements and a pedestrian bridge over the Lake Tarpon Outfall Canal. Construction on that bridge is expected to begin next spring and conclude in summer 2024.
In the meantime, sidewalks are providing for a temporary connection from the intersection of Tampa Road and McMullen Booth Road to East Lake Road. Trail users can follow signs around the area.
83-year-old Freda Brown of New Port Richey is excited about the improvements. She likes to put in the miles.
“I love the Pinellas Trail because I can go everywhere by bike, like the St. Pete Pier, and I can go all the way up to Brooksville on a trail without having to get on the road,” she added.
Brown bikes 20-30 miles every day, despite her age and much to the bewilderment of her friends.
“They say, ‘oh are you kidding me?’ she said with a hearty laugh.
Fred Marquis was at Friday’s trail opening. He is a retired Pinellas County Administrator and spent 34 years working on trail improvements. He dedicated so much of his life to the project that county leaders named a portion of the trail after him.
“It’s an honor that’s hard to express. It makes me cry every time. This is a completed dream for a lot of folks,” he explained.
The Pinellas trail has exploded in popularity during the pandemic and is now welcoming 2 million users a year.
“We knew 30 years ago that this project would be very exciting. We knew people would like it. We had no idea the capacity of what the Pinellas Trail would mean to our county, to Tampa Bay and to the state of Florida,” said Scott Daniels of the Friends of the Pinellas Trail.
With the trail’s popularity also comes the need for safety, said Clearwater Mayor Frank Hibbard.
“It’s a wonderful asset, but it can also lead to tragedy if people are not aware of one another,” Hibbard added. “If you see a pedestrian crossing signalized or non-signalized, pedestrians and bikers have the right of way in the state of Florida. Most drivers, unfortunately, don’t know that.”
Brown said a little courtesy and common sense go a long way.
“When you’re coming up behind a slower person, get to your left and holler on your left, so they know you’re coming. If you don’t, it scares them,” she elaborated.
Pinellas County leaders said The Pinellas Trail Loop also has regional connections to the Hillsborough and Pasco County trail networks linking to the western end of the Florida Coast-to-Coast Connector Trail, a 250-mile loop that goes to Titusville on the East Coast.