Pinellas Trail History
The Fred Marquis Trail began as a vision in 1983. Bert Valery, whose son was killed while riding his bike, worked with Brian Smith and then-County Administrator Fred Marquis to get the trail started and helped form the Pinellas County Metropolitan Planning Organization’s Bicycle Advisory Committee, consisting of bicycle enthusiasts. The committee, in partnership with the Pedestrian Safety Committee, wanted a safe place to enjoy bicycle riding, strolling or jogging. The County had a separate problem — what to do with a 34-mile corridor of abandoned CSX railroad right-of-way.
The committees’ dream became a reality in 1990, when the first 5-mile section of the Pinellas Trail opened, connecting Taylor Park in Largo to Seminole Park in Seminole. The trail became immensely popular, with use numbers exceeding all expectations. With the passage of the first Penny for Pinellas 1-cent local option sales tax, plans were put into motion to connect the county, from north to south, with a continuous trail.
An average of 70,000 people use the trail each month. The trail is a unique greenway corridor linking some of Pinellas County’s most picturesque parks, scenic coastal areas and residential neighborhoods. While traveling along the trail, outdoor enthusiasts can enjoy deep glades of ancient live oaks, trailing Spanish moss, quiet waterways and tidal streams with all varieties of land and water birds.
The trail is a priceless haven in a busy, highly urbanized environment, where trailgoers safely breeze along. The construction of 10 overpasses and three underpasses allows trailgoers to travel above or underneath traffic at the busiest intersections.
The trail is patrolled by the Pinellas County Security Task Force, which represents law enforcement officers from the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office and various municipal law enforcement agencies. Pinellas County park rangers also regularly patrol the trail, just as they do any county park. The auxiliary rangers, a legion of volunteers, function as extra eyes and ears for the regular park rangers.
Trail amenities include bike racks and refreshment stops along the way, which are provided by the Pinellas Trails Inc., a not-for-profit citizen’s group. The Guide to the Pinellas Trail is a convenient, pocket-size flip chart map for navigating the trail. The guide details rest stops, service stations, restaurants, pay phones, bike shops, park areas and much more along the entire length of the trail. The free Guide to the Pinellas Trail is available at the trail office, area libraries, the Pinellas County Courthouse Information Desk and on the Internet.
The 47-mile Pinellas Trail offers county residents and visitors a unique opportunity to enjoy the outdoors that is close to home, close to work and close to where they want to go. Grab your inline skates, put on your jogging shoes or hop on your bicycle and head to the Pinellas Trail.
Who is Fred Marquis?
The Pinellas Trail was named in honor of Fred Marquis, who served as Pinellas County administrator from 1979 until 2000. His leadership resulted in national recognition of Pinellas County for its fiscal integrity, efficient and responsive government, preservation of the natural environment and expansion of one of the nation’s most outstanding park systems. Mr. Marquis was a tireless proponent for the conversion of the abandoned railroad corridor to the Pinellas Trail.