Acquisition Will Extend Pinellas Trail (FL)

December 28, 2005
Press release

St. Petersburg, FL, 12/28/2005 - The Trust for Public Land (TPL), a national nonprofit land conservation organization, announced today that it has purchased a 2.1-mile rail corridor from CSX Transportation, Inc. that will bring the existing 34-mile Fred Marquis Pinellas Trail into downtown St. Petersburg and will create the opportunity for users to travel safely into and out of downtown on a paved urban trail.

"This project will enable us to complete the trail to the waterfront in downtown St. Petersburg," said St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker. "We're excited to have the support of Congressman Young, the Florida DOT and The Trust for Public Land in making this trail a reality."

TPL purchased the corridor for $4.75 million late yesterday and will sell it to the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT), which is administering a federal appropriation championed by Congressman C.W. "Bill" Young to the City of St. Petersburg specifically for this acquisition. TPL will hold the property until its sale to FDOT, which is anticipated to occur in about two months. Once the city takes ownership, it will work in conjunction with Pinellas County to construct and manage the corridor as an addition to the Pinellas Trail.

"This was a complex project that required a great deal of coordination between the private sector and federal, state and local government. We were very pleased to be able to help put the pieces together and make the project work," said Becky Nielsen, TPL project manager. TPL's purchase of the property today ensures that it can be acquired by the state DOT and St. Petersburg with the federally appropriated funds at the agreed-upon price.

The corridor purchased today passes the historic Seaboard Coastline Train Depot that currently houses the St. Pete Clay Company. It then curves around Tropicana Field, home of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays baseball team, and joins the existing trail at 34th Street South.

"CSX is very pleased to be able to help turn this corridor into a green space for residents of the City of St. Petersburg and Pinellas County," said Steve Crosby, president of CSX Real Property Inc. "We are grateful for the opportunity to participate in this project with TPL."

The Pinellas Trail is an extremely popular urban trail extending from Tarpon Springs at the northernmost end of Pinellas County to 34th Street South in St. Petersburg at the southernmost end. Along its 34-mile length, it traverses eight towns and several waterways and connects a number of state and local parks, including Honeymoon Island State Park. Since its opening in 1990, the trail has been used by almost a million visitors each year.

The idea of turning railroad corridors into bicycle/pedestrian trails gained popularity in the 1980s after Congress passed the federal Rails to Trails Act, permitting railroad rights-of-way no longer needed for trains to be converted into recreational trails. With 397 miles of rail trails open and another 420 additional miles in planning or under construction, Florida is a nationally recognized leader in re-using unneeded rail corridors.

CSX Transportation, Inc. operates the largest railroad in the eastern United States with a 22,000-mile rail network, 1,750 miles of which are in Florida. CSX and the Trust for Public Land have worked together on four other "rail-trail" projects around the state, with three closing last year alone. In Sarasota County, TPL purchased a 12.8-mile segment of the old CSX rail line that once carried circus trains to the winter home of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. It now serves as a trail linking Sarasota to Venice, Laurel and Nokomis. TPL purchased two railway corridors in Leesburg totaling 6.5 miles that will become part the Leesburg Greenway Trail, a system of interconnected trails and bikeways. In Tallahassee, TPL acquired a rail corridor that will help connect Florida State University to the Tallahassee/St. Marks Historic Rail Trail.

The Trust for Public Land (TPL) is a national nonprofit land conservation organization that conserves land for people to enjoy as parks, gardens, historic sites, rural lands, and other natural areas, ensuring livable communities for generations to come. Since its founding in 1972, TPL has helped protect more than 2 million acres of land in 46 states. In Florida, TPL has protected more than 300 sites - over 200,000 acres at a market value of about $500 million. The Trust for Public Land depends on the support and generosity of individuals, foundations, and businesses to achieve our land for people mission. For more information please contact us at 850-222-7911 or visit us on the web at www.tpl.org.