The Green ARTery seeks to connect Tampa neighborhoods with bike and walking trails

05/30/13 Samuel Johnson
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Soon pedestrians and cyclist could be able to travel around Central Tampa with ease. Wednesday at Seminole Heights Garden Center residents suggested ways to improve their neighborhood’s portion of what is called the Green ARTery. Those 60 people are part of a grassroots movement in Tampa is pushing to refurbish and connect areas from 20 different districts.

The Green ARTery is a community-based movement which is focused on connecting Central Tampa’s neighborhood assets, the Hillsborough River and other green areas for pedestrians, cyclists and recreationalists. Rhonda Triplett-Coleman, Public Relations for the Green ARTery, said the long term goal is more than neighborhood interaction.

”Having a long term project which we want to have finished by 20-20-20. Which is the twenty neighborhoods. And we want to build a perimeter trail which what you hear a lot about. Which is why we are having this meeting tonight. Because the perimeter trail has a proposed route that will do exactly what we want. And that will take you along the pathway of the trail so that you can visit all the neighborhoods. That the Green ARTery; I mean that's the trail for the Green ARTery”

James Shirk, chair of the Hillsborough County Bicycle/Pedestrian Advisory Committee, said connecting the 20 neighborhoods benefits the area’s overall health and pocketbook. The Hillsborough River is the boundary to the North and West, McKay Bay and Old Tampa Bay to the South and 40th St .to the East.

”it's a very worthwhile initiative to connect all the neighborhoods via user-friendly bicycling and walking paths. To help us maintain health and reduce costs and just make it a more liveable community.”

It has been said if a municipal project is to succeed, then a combination of political and communal moxie is needed. Michelle Ogilvie, executive planner with the Hillsborough Metropolitan Planning Organization, said the Green ARTery’s grass roots collaboration with government ensures its success.

”Most times government projects end at the end of a funding cycle or a whatever. But this will live on because it is becoming... the little girl who is about 2 (years old) here. She'll remember it and talk about it to her friends at some point. And that's how it will live. This is a very exciting moment.”

The proposed green perimeter encompasses residential, commercial and wildlife areas of Central Tampa. Myron Griffon, a co-founder of the Green ARTery, said the proximity to unique Florida wildlife is reason enough for the project.

”We hope to have a boardwalk along the edge of the really widened Hillsborough River here. There's alligators in that area. There's otters in that area. It's amazing that this can be so wilderness like and it's geographically only about 3 or 4 miles from the down town Riverwalk. There aren't many cities who can say; we got alligators 4 miles from down town.”

The focus rests on more than just the environmental aspects of the project. Anne McDonald, head of the preservation committee for Old Seminole Heights, said saving historic landmarks requires a multidisciplinary approach.

”People in historic preservation come form architects, designers, archeologists, anthropologist. Because they (anthropologists) gather the history of people. And we have all of those involved in the preservation movement here in Tampa”

The bottom line is that the project will have to be paid for by someone. Calvin Thorton, city transportation planning engineer, said funding is an obstacle for the Green ARTery.

”That's been kind of one of the central themes with most of the community groups. How do you go about funding something as large as this? How do you seek the funds? That's going to be the challenge; trying to find funds to fund it.”

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