The Pinellas Trail Effect: How a sleepy little town, with a failing economy, experienced an economic boom!
The Pinellas Loop Trail is a 75-mile-long bicycle and pedestrian trail that traverses all of Pinellas County and bisects downtown Dunedin. Dunedin’s strategic location along the trail has turned this once depressed community into a destination spot for outdoor enthusiasts. Compared to their neighboring Florida communities that are not on the trail, Dunedin now has a thriving downtown business district. This success can be attributed to the “Pinellas Trail Effect” and everyone in the community has benefited from it.
The Pinellas Trail is now 32 years old so Dunedin has long been a mecca for non-motorized trail users. Bicyclists, joggers, in-line skaters and leisurely walkers access the town by way of the Pinellas Trail, which runs through downtown on an abandoned CSX railroad corridor. The multi-use trail stretches from St. Petersburg to Tarpon Springs and town officials attribute it to a sharp rise in the business occupancy rate, from 30 percent to 100 percent. Bike shops, cafes, hotels, and other businesses all cater to trail users.
Dunedin’s status as a trail-friendly community has not gone unnoticed by state officials. In January of 2018, the Pinellas County community was designated as Florida’s first official trail town by the Florida Greenways and Trails Council under a new program administered by the Office of Greenways and Trails, part of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).
“We couldn’t be more proud,” said Dunedin Mayor Julie Ward Bujalski. “Our downtown has thrived around the trail and attracted folks from all ages and abilities. We like to think of the trail as the main artery of our community.”
Dunedin Economic Development and Housing Director Bob Ironsmith added, “The Trail has been a major catalyst for the revitalization of Downtown Dunedin, bringing in a constant stream of people who shop eat and play in our quaint Main Street area. Embracing and enhancing the Trail has led the effort in making Downtown Dunedin a top destination to visit, and we are very proud of receiving the Trail Town designation.”
The Pinellas Trail has propelled Dunedin into becoming the successful, thriving community that it is today. Bonta Springs and the Village of Estero have the same opportunity with the addition of the Bonita Estero Rail Trail (BERT). BERT will provide safe recreation for our community but also bring in new, unique businesses that can contribute to revitalizing our area. There are numerous reasons to add our own rail trail and the quaint Florida town of Dunedin shows us the possibilities. It is time for us to experience the “BERT Effect.”