Advertisements planned along Pinellas Trail; Florida's parks and trails could follow

07/16/13 Roberto Roldan
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Cyclists frequenting the Pinellas Trail will soon see changes to the scenery -- existing signage are being replaced by newer and larger signs. They will also feature advertisements from businesses.

The 47-mile long trail is used by an average of 70,000 residents and visitors each month. Twenty percent of each new sign will be advertisement space. They will be at trail heads, intersections, and directional markers along the trail. Paul Bozzie, Director of Pinellas County’s Parks and Conservation resources, said this new signage could raise about $70,000.

“It’s going to have our safety tips for the trail and they’ll be much more attractive than what we currently have on the trail now. So it will actually help us to clean up the appearance of the trail.”

A state bill passed last year allows sponsored signage on trails in state-run parks in the hopes of generating needed revenue. Officials from 7 parks and preserves around Florida held a teleconference yesterday with companies looking to sponsor the signs. But not everyone stands to benefit from the new signage. Rudy Scheffer, a resident of Safety Harbor and the state outing chair for the Sierra Club, warned that while these signs might make money for the state, he believes corporate sponsored signage will hurt the natural scenery of these parks.

“An urban trail is one thing, but in a state park having corporate signs I think to me is just horrible. People actually want to go to the state parks to get away from that. The Florida Park System, a few years ago, was awarded one of the best park systems in the country. Why would we want to ruin those types of things by adding corporation in to the mix?”

85% of sign revenue will go to funding state trails and parks. Pinellas and Hillsborough counties are home to 8 parks run by the state.

Pinellas County’s parks director, Bozzie, said he doesn’t think the new signs will detract from the natural experience of the Pinellas Trail, but that the county does have options if the signs aren’t received well by residents who use the trail.

“If we find that it is something that detracts from the experience on the trail, then after two years, we have the ability to cancel that arrangement.”

Bozzie said Pinellas County will receive 30% of net revenues from the signs. They contracted with the company Bikepath Country, which will find sponsors for the signs and install them.

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