Drive down the section of 34th Street S. in St. Petersburg designated the Skyway Marina District and it mainly looks like asphalt and cement. But as some 50 bike riders discovered, there is some astonishing natural beauty just a few spoke turns away.
The eye-opening bike ride Saturday July 16 was co-sponsored by the fledgling district, which is trying to attract new investment, and ShiftStPete, a non-profit that advocates for bicyclist and pedestrian infrastructure.
The 6.5-mile ride was designed to expose riders to the trails winding through the district and elicit their input on new trails they’d like to see established. The route included 37th Street S., Clam Bayou, the Lakewood trail connector, and bike lanes on and near 31th Street S.
The highlight hands down was the Clam Bayou Nature Preserve. There, easily accessible off 34th Avenue S., the Skyway Trail wends past osprey nests, fishing herons, picnic tables, ponds and scenery as beautiful as any one would find in the remote Everglades.
“Several people on the ride had never been through Clam Bayou before and it’s in their back yards,” said Keri Melshenker, the Skyway Marina District’s executive director. The goal of the ride, she said, was “to show off the Skyway Marina District in a different way” while also highlighting some of its businesses.
“We feel there are many treasures down here most residents of St. Pete aren’t even aware of,” said ShiftStPete executive director Vanessa Wheeler. Riders included not only area residents but folks from as far away as Tampa, she said, adding that she was surprised by how many showed up.
“For being a summer ride this was a phenomenal turnout,” she said. “This was a very successful event.”
Among the riders was Sarah Weber, 9, of St. Petersburg, who was riding with her parents Matthew and Mary, and brother Henry, 4. She said she enjoyed the event for a number of reasons.
“I liked how you could see so many beautiful things,” she said at the end. “I also liked getting the exercise. And being with people I know and meeting new friends.”
Escort for the ride was provided by several officers from the St. Petersburg Police Department, including one who rode with the group.
On July 1, St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman announced the first major multi-use project proposed for the Skyway Marina District. He said Phillips Development & Realty of Tampa plans to develop a lot off 30th Avenue S. and 34th Street S. owned by Home Depot. The initial proposal included 250 apartments and 25,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space.