A paved bicycle path that is under construction along the northern portion of Clam Bayou will soon be paired with new street sharrows in Gulfport and, combined, these areas will connect local riders to established trails in neighboring St. Petersburg.
All this makes Gulfport Mayor Sam Henderson happy. It should, because it was his idea.
“We needed a good way to get from downtown Gulfport over to this trail without being on an incredibly unfriendly bike road, which is 22nd Avenue South,” said Henderson. “The idea was, we would work with St. Petersburg and the Southwest Water Management District (SWFMD) and do a connector.”
In addition, the spur that will follow the northern edge of Clam Bayou, which is under the jurisdiction of SWFMD, is also a “pretty place,” he said.
The total cost estimate of the final project plan and installation is $170,000 with each city paying half, said Gulfport City Manager Jim O’Reilly.
The plan wasn’t always this basic.
In a public meeting attended by about 65 people held in the city council chambers on September 14, 2015, residents in Ward II firmly vocalized their objection to a more complex 10-foot-wide cement bicycle path that was proposed for their neighborhood believing it would invade their privacy, lower their property values and bring crime to their doorsteps. A petition signed by 55 people and 45 written comment sheets were also a part of the public input.
At stake was a total of $400,000 to develop such a trail. Half was a matching grant from the state that would have been paired with $200,000 from the city.
To accommodate public opinion, the project was scaled back in scope and cost to include a paved path for what is called the Osgood Point Trail portion of the project while utilizing sharrows and directional signage on existing streets for key destinations located inside the city limits of Gulfport.
Gulfport’s Basic Route
The entrance to the new paved bike path will be just east the intersection of 26th Avenue South and Quincy Street South. When it is completed, bicycle riders who follow this winding water-view path eastward into St. Petersburg will be connected to the existing Skyway Trail.
Conversely, bike riders heading west from this intersection into the city of Gulfport will have two route choices.
For the Municipal Marina trail, bicyclists will follow sharrows west on 26th Avenue South to Miriam Street South, turn left, then ride southward to the entrance of the marina. Clam Bayou Nature Park, with paved paths and a kayak launch, is also located at this trail terminus.
For the Waterfront District trail, bike riders will follow sharrows on 26th Avenue South to 49th Street South, turn left or south, then head south to 28th Avenue South where they will turn right or west. Riders will stay on 28th Avenue South until they reach Beach Boulevard where they will turn left or south, and continue on until they reach the Gulfport Casino and waterfront.
In the next three to four weeks, the city will begin placing the lane pavement markings and directional signage at a material and installation cost of $19,558.10, said Public Works Director Tom Nicholls. Soon after that, the entire connecting bike route will be open for use.