Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

A Largo pioneer family's land gets new life as Eagle Lake Park

In the southwest corner of Eagle Lake Park, hundreds of longleaf pines stand together. It is a thick, mini-forest of sorts. The 40-foot trees also mark the passage of time: They were planted when Pinellas County started creating the 163-acre public park. "I remember planting them as little trees,'' said Tony Contarino, the Eagle Lake park ranger. "That was about 11 years ago.'' Eagle Lake Park, named for the bald eagles that used to nest in the area, will open to the public beginning Monday, nearly a dozen years after the county bought most of the land. A grand opening celebration will be held at 10 a.m. Tuesday. County Commissioner Karen Seel will speak and dignitaries from Largo and Clearwater are expected.

Homesteaded for citrus and cattle by Largo's pioneer Taylor family back in the 1850s, the land still includes hundreds of orange, grapefruit and tangerine trees. As one of the few remaining undeveloped tracts in the Clearwater-Largo corridor, plenty of wildlife have gotten used to making Eagle Lake Park their home.

"I actually saw a coyote out in the open at about 10:30 in the morning the other day,'' said Contarino, 38. "He's going to have to get used to having people around.'' So will the osprey, roseate spoonbills, hawks, fox squirrels and gopher tortoises on land and bass, bream and mallard ducks in the lakes.

Pinellas County purchased the property in two transactions. In 1998, the Taylor family sold 157 acres to Pinellas County for $13 million. In 2006, the county bought an adjacent 6 acres for $2.25 million.

Construction was completed in July 2009. But Pinellas County held off on opening the park, citing the need to save on operational expenses.

And it is because of finances that the county selected a weekday for the grand opening. "With all the budget cuts already and with the county facing another difficult budget year, we wouldn't do anything extravagant to commemorate the opening,'' said Paul Cozzie, the county's culture, education and leisure director.

On Wednesday, 16 high school students from Veritas Academy and Indian Rocks Christian School were gleaning citrus from orange trees near the center of the park as part of a school service project. "We picked 3,000 pieces of fruit,'' said Lin Weeman, a teacher from Indian Rocks Christian School. "I hope to come out again. It was a learning experience for many of the kids,'' he said.

But when the park opens, don't expect to snack on the fruit.

As with all county parks, visitors should leave all wildlife, plants and other natural objects, including Eagle Lake's fallen citrus, said Cozzie. "The county will maintain the groves, but we will also work with groups like the one from Indian Rocks to come in and gather for food banks and nonprofits.''

Although the county, with the help of Heritage Village, aims to one day turn the Taylor homestead into a living history museum, the northeast area of the park will be fenced off from the public for now. "The Taylor homestead, which included the house, part of the citrus groves and the barns, were actually all part of a separate project from the park itself. That's been delayed due to budget issues,'' Cozzie said.

Other offerings include a playground, a dog park, 2,000 feet of boardwalks over wetlands, six picnic shelters and nature trails.

And this is not the only celebration for Seel and the commission this spring. On April 26, a Monday, they will dedicate the new Belleair Beach Causeway Bridge and commemorate the opening of the new boat ramp.

Fast facts

If you go

The grand opening of Eagle Lake Park, 1800 Keene Road, Largo, will be held at 10 a.m. Tuesday between shelters 4 and 5 in the northwest corner of the park. To commemorate the opening, Pinellas County Commissioner Karen Seel will speak. Cub Scout Pack 484 will present the colors.

On Monday, the public will have access to Eagle Lake Park, which is bordered by Belleair Road on the north, Keene Road on the east, McMullen Road to the south and Lake Avenue to the west. Hours are from dawn to dusk.

Park Amenities include:

• Playground

• Six picnic shelters

• Three restrooms

• Dog park

• Paved recreation trail

• 2,000 feet of boardwalks over wetlands

A Largo pioneer family's land gets new life as Eagle Lake Park 03/27/10 [Last modified: Thursday, April 1, 2010 1:52pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Despite Hurricane Irma, Hillsborough remains on pace to unlock hotel tax that could pay for Rays ballpark


    TAMPA — Despite the threat of a catastrophic storm, it was business as usual at many Hillsborough County hotels in the days before Hurricane Irma bore down on the Tampa Bay region.

    The Grand Hyatt near TIA closed during Hurricane Irma, but many other Hillsborough hotels were open and saw an influx.
  2. Pinellas votes 7-0 to help sue Legislature over new law favoring charter schools


    LARGO — They said they had no choice but to do it. They said they would rather reach a compromise.

    Gov. Rick Scott, right, kicks off the 2017 legislative session on March 7 in Tallahassee. Scott later signed a massive education bill that is being challenged by several school districts. On Tuesday, Pinellas became one of them. [SCOTT KEELER   |   Times]
  3. Deputies find 24 dogs, 2 birds, 2 cats, 1 child in Hernando home

    Public Safety

    SPRING HILL —A woman was arrested Monday on charges of animal cruelty after deputies said they found injured animals at her Spring Hill home.

    Jennie Card, 44, was arrested on two counts of animal cruelty after deputies said they found her injured animals at her Spring Hill residence.[Courtesy of Hernando County Sheriff's Office]
  4. New Graham-Cassidy health care plan stumbles under opposition from governors


    WASHINGTON — The suddenly resurgent Republican effort to undo the Affordable Care Act was dealt a blow on Tuesday when a bipartisan group of governors came out against a proposal gaining steam in the Senate.

    Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., joined by, from left, Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., Majority Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas, Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., speaks to reporters as he pushes a last-ditch effort to uproot former President Barack Obama's health care law, at the Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2017. To win, 50 of the 52 GOP senators must back it -- a margin they failed to reach when the chamber rejected the effort in July. [/J. Scott Applewhite | Associated Press]
  5. Joe Maddon on being back at Trop, Cash, a new stadium


    More to come later, but a couple of quick early highlights from former Rays manager Joe Maddon's return to the Trop with the Cubs:

    Joe Maddon, right, speaks with Rays pitching coach Jim Hickey before Tuesday's game at Tropicana Field.