Hikers, joggers, cyclists, and skaters can now experience another 4.35 miles of the Upper Tampa Bay Trail (UTBT). The popular southern section of the UTBT, from Memorial Highway to just a bit north of Ehrlich Road has been recognized as an incredible community asset. For years, trail users could also start at the northern section on Lutz Lake Fern Road at a temporary trailhead on their way to the 42-mile Suncoast Trail. Now, the trail stretches south from a new trailhead at Lutz Lake Fern Road to Van Dyke Road, and the temporary trail head has been replaced with a permanent structure with over 50 parking spaces, restrooms, water, and an automated pay station. Before long, the last gap between Van Dyke Road and where the existing trail ends just north of Ehrlich road will be connected and create close to 60-miles of continuous trail to enjoy!
The new section of trail is in the heart of nature, cutting through Brooker Creek Preserve. The trail will, for the most part, be a 12-foot wide, asphalt lane, some portions are on elevated boardwalk through wetlands, and there are unpaved walkways branching off the main trail into the conservation area. There will be bike racks near those charted areas if cyclists choose to stop and walk.
The MPO has supported the funding of the UTBT since it was first conceived in the 1980’s. The new trail section costs $5.6 million, with funding coming from Southwest Florida Water Management District, Hillsborough County and FDOT. To discuss the project with county officials, you may call Steve Valdez, general contractor, Citizen Engagement, at 813.272.5275, or Richard Sanders, construction project contractor, Public Works Department, at 813.307.1840.