BRADENTON -- A reluctant county commission Tuesday decided to set in motion an extensive bike and pedestrian trail in eastern Manatee County, after first questioning whether to move off the dime at all.
At-Large Commissioner Joe McClash called the board's attention to a "greenway" project amid railroad tracks owned by Florida Power & Light near Erie and Old Tampa Roads along State Road 74, near I-75.
The greenway has been incorporated in the county's comprehensive plan for a long time but never acted upon, he said. Tuesday, that changed.
The commission's longest-serving member, McClash asked the commission for a letter to FPL to learn the degree of interest the utility would have in making its unused right-of-way along railroad tracks there available to the county, which doesn't own the land.
One after another, each time identifying themselves as fervent supporters of greenways - broad, usually paved bike and pedestrian paths like the prize-winning Pinellas Trail from Clearwater to St. Petersburg - commissioners worried whether getting attorneys involved would cost the cash-strapped county too much money.
McClash bore it all patiently, and then volunteered to write the initial letter to FPL himself. Manatee County Atty. Tedd N. Williams, Jr., assuaging the fears expressed by Donna Hayes, John Chappie and Carol Whitmore, said McClash's letter gauging FPL's interest would be fine, and added that if developments then required an attorney to draft binding documents, his office could step in.
The proposed trail might even include a rail transit element if finally approved, McClash said.
Commissioner John Chappie said that rather than embarking on a multi-path now, he might prefer bike paths in parts of the county that serve a larger population be improved. Many stretches of bike paths near schools in the county's densest population centers have no bike signage or stencils at all, he told The Bradenton Times during a brief recess.
McClash presented a map of the proposed path in a portion of land slated for future housing developments that he said would be well-served by a greenway close to I-75 in a growing part of the county.
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