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Developer drops plans for $1M Sand Key Park zipline treetop tours

CLEARWATER — The embattled proposal for a zipline course at Sand Key Park is dead.

Developer Dev Pathik withdrew his plans for an "ecological tour" on Wednesday, effectively ending the $1 million project in the Pinellas County park before it could get off the ground.

"It just wasn't the right thing for us," Pathik said. "I think I'll leave it at that."

Pathik's Clearwater Canopy Tours would have installed platforms, ziplines and rope bridges in the treetops in a portion of the park, offering kid-friendly ecological lessons on Florida flora and wildlife. County leaders said the tour could "inject life, color and energy" into the beachfront park.

But the proposal faced brutal opposition from the Sand Key Civic Association, whose members slammed it as a ruinous "environmental catastrophe." The group retained a law firm earlier this month.

Association spokeswoman JoEllen Farnham called the withdrawal a "huge victory," saying members had devoted "a lot of hard work" to resisting the proposal.

"This is an example of people becoming engaged in the process," Farnham said. "This was a coming together of people who were genuinely interested in preserving the park."

Clearwater Regional Chamber of Commerce president Bob Clifford said the proposal was misrepresented by the civic association and marked a missed opportunity for tourism. "The impact, contrary to what the folks on Sand Key were saying, would have been extremely minimal," Clifford said. "I'm disappointed that they really didn't give Dev an opportunity to fully explain the nature of the proposal."

Pathik said he would consider "other opportunities" for the course, including sites outside of Sand Key.

"It appeared it was going to be an uphill battle," said Paul Cozzie, the county's director of Parks and Conservation Resources. "In a different location, it might have worked out for him."

The City Council, which doesn't control the county park, voted last week to voice its opposition to the project to county leaders. But Mayor Frank Hibbard, who called the withdrawal "not shocking," said the city could only take partial credit.

"I don't think he (Pathik) wanted to go through the rigmarole," Hibbard said. "The Sand Key folks were pretty energized. You add it all up, and there are probably easier projects for him to pursue."

Contact Drew Harwell at dharwell@sptimes.com or (727) 445-4170.

Developer drops plans for $1M Sand Key Park zipline treetop tours 04/27/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, April 27, 2011 8:44pm]
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