Thursday, July 16, 2009

SWFBUD's Statement on Hillsborough County's Proposed Budget

SWFBUD released the statement that will be read tonight at Hillsborough County's 6 PM budget hearing.

It’s hard to convince bicyclists to attend a government meeting. They’d rather be out cycling. But dozens of bicyclists of all backgrounds are here tonight because Hillsborough County government is proposing to shut down for two days a week one of the natural gems of our county – Flatwoods county park and its adjoining park land.

Very bad idea. Flatwoods is many things to many people. For many, the roads in Hillsborough County are poorly designed to host bicycle riders, so cyclists seek refuge on the 7-mile loop at Flatwoods. You will see everyone from youngsters to families to seniors, from bicycle novices to hard-core roadies pedaling the loop. You will also see hundreds of off-road mountain bikers on the Wilderness park land on trails built and maintained by local residents, not the county. Then there are the kayakers, and runners, and rollerbladers and hikers and anyone else who seeks a wonderful safe haven from the development that has sprawled throughout Hillsborough County.

Then, we have another vital county resource – the Upper Tampa Bay Trail. The county has poured more than $20 million of infrastructure improvements into this trail that is used by families and cyclists of all backgrounds.

It’s foolish to think that you will truly “close” Flatwoods and the Upper Tampa Bay Trail. A mountain biker can easily bike in the woods at Flatwoods or a cyclist will enter the Upper Tampa Bay trail from many access points.

You’re shutting down county resources at a time when bicycling is growing more popular as ever and these safe havens such as Flatwoods and the Upper Tampa Bay Trails offer a safe venue for inexperienced and new bicyclists to learn skills and gain confidence because we all know the roads in the county can be menacing for even experienced bicyclists.

New bike shops are opening around the county. New bike clubs have been started in the past year. Your county residents are telling you in crystal-clear terms – give us safe and secure places to bike. It’s upsetting and regrettable that Hillsborough County chooses to decrease bicycle venue services while at the same time increasing pay for the assistants of County Administrator Pat Bean. Shameful and embarrassing, too.

SWFBUD asks sternly to reverse the park closures of two days a week and re-examine and re-evaluate your proposed county budget to do just that.

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