Monday, January 12, 2009

Killearn Estates Bridle Trail

When Killearn Properties laid out the Killearn Estates sub-division (or "planned community" as they called it) back in the 1960s, they decided to designate the utility easements as "bridle trails." It made for higher property values. See how this sounds: "Over there is the bridle trail, part of a network of miles of trails set aside for horseback riding." Now compare: "Those power lines over there are on a utility easement; trucks from city electric and the phone company will be driving up and down there day and night, and in a few years the cable television company will dig a big trench down the middle of it." Okay, which one do you want next to your four-bedroom house? It's all about marketing.

Through the 1970s, though, you could actually occasionally see a horse on the trails, or at least spot a pile of horse apples. Then the stables on Shamrock West closed down. I won't say that there hasn't been a horse on the bridle trails for twenty years, but I haven't seen one on the bridle trails for twenty years.

Which leaves miles and miles of horse-free grass trails for running.

The Killearn Estates Bridle Trails are absurdly easy to follow. As I mentioned earlier, they're really utility easements, so you just need to follow the power lines. At each road crossing the trail is also marked with wooden rails. The original 1960s version of these rails were unfinished log fences, but these have long since rotted away and have recently been replaced with stained wood railings supported by copper-crowned fenceposts. Speaking of road crossings, they average about one every quarter mile, so although you still have to worry about traffic, you don't have to worry about it much. Using the bridle trails, it's possible to run a nearly pavement-free route from Centerville Road to Thomasville Road. To help plan your run, the Killearn Home Owners Association has a map of the Bridle Trail.


The light-green lines are the Bridle Trails. KHA has a PDF of the map online at http://www.killearn.org/images/maps/11x17_KE_map.pdf. Like all maps, it is not completely accurate, so don't be too surprised when, for instance, on the east side of Foley Drive you find that the power lines are in someone's yard and the trail is missing. There are also no trailheads where you can leave your car and begin running, but there is parking at Killarney Way Park, Shannon Lakes Park, and Shamrock Park, so these could serve as trailheads. However, the parks are the property of the Killearn Homeowners Association and, as such, "are for Killearn residents and their guests only" as indicated by the "No Trespassing" signs. Similar signs are on the trail itself. Your options are to find a friend who lives in Killearn Estates so you can be his "guest", or buy a house in Killearn Estates. There are some good realtors in the local Gulf Winds Track Club.

I've been running on various parts of the Bridle Trails since around 1970. Strangely enough, many runners and walkers pass up the Trail to run on the concrete sidewalks. To each their own. Trail bicycles also occasionally zip by on the Trail. Other than that, you might run into a utility truck, or, very rarely, a city lawnmower. The grass on the trail can get quite shaggy between mowings in the summer. Think of it as a bonus if you're training for cross-country in the fall.

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