NEW PORT RICHEY — County leaders will wish happy trails to mountain bikers on Saturday at Jay B. Starkey Wilderness Park’s new off-road bike trail.
A dedication ceremony is scheduled for noon June 21 at the park by the trail head in parking lot 10. Guided rides and refreshments will be available.
The path was designed to showcase some of the park’s natural beauty and take advantage of shade, Pasco Parks and Recreation Department officials explained.
Late last year, the South West Association of Mountain-Bike Pedalers gained approval to begin grooming the bicycle trail.
The SWAMP-led volunteers used hand tools and small pieces of heavy machinery to develop the trail. The first, seven-mile, section, dubbed Magnolia Trail by its creators, will form the backbone of what is expected to become a 35-mile trail system within the 8,000-acre county-operated park.
The Magnolia Trail leaves from parking lot 10 and winds through pine uplands, old growth oaks, scrub oak, flat woods, past wetlands, cypress domes and a lily pond.
“This trail is designed to showcase some of the park’s most beautiful parts by going near or through them,” said Rudy Miller, SWAMP volunteer. “There is ample twisting and turning to give the riders rhythm and a challenge.”
In response to public comments about the Pasco County Greenways Master Plan, county officials decided there was a strong demand for off-road bicycling, Susanna Martinez Tarokh recalled as public information officer for Southwest Florida Water Management District.
The county asked Tampa-based SWAMP to develop proposals to create a system of trails within the park to provide patrons with diverse opportunities.
Along the first phase, riders will pass by grand Magnolia trees and other scenic natural features. Most of the land is flat and is subject to flooding.
The system was constructed by SWAMP and other park volunteers who dedicated more than 300 hours of service removing brush, shrubs and small trees to create a trail system.
At the ceremony June 21, Chainwheel Drive Bike Shop will provide refreshments and a mechanic for riders that need any pre-ride tweaks for their bicycles.
For additional information go to the SWAMP website, www.swampclub.org.