Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Proposed Caladesi Discovery Center would provide miles of island views

The proposed $500,000 Caladesi Discovery Center’s 25-foot tower.

Friends of Island Parks

The proposed $500,000 Caladesi Discovery Center’s 25-foot tower.

DUNEDIN — Atop the 25-foot observation deck, Caladesi Island visitors could admire an expanse of wildflowers, mangroves, white sand and glittering ocean. "Real Florida," supporters say.

The proposed Caladesi Discovery Center — a three-story, open-air, lumber and concrete tower with a central elevator — wouldn't just provide great views. It would also educate locals and travelers about the largely undeveloped island's history, flora and fauna, said Cindy Farris, president of Friends of Island Parks. It would include seasonal educational exhibits.

"The facility will allow visitors to learn more about what they're seeing and the ground they're standing on," said Farris, a Chicago native who, years ago, celebrated her first Florida New Year's Eve on the island. "It will provide a great practical lesson in the topography of our coast."

Caladesi Island is a state park directly north of Clearwater Beach. It is undeveloped except for a ferry dock, concession stand and gift shop.

The discovery center project has garnered support from the Clearwater Beach Chamber of Commerce and community leaders. One obstacle: It would cost about $500,000, Farris estimates. Around $150,000 would fund the educational exhibits.

Farris believes Friends of Island Parks has raised more than $100,000. Tampa Bay artists, including the noted artist Christopher Still, have donated custom-framed, nature-themed prints to big sponsors.

Farris also wants to install a donation box on Caladesi Island asking for $1 from each visitor. The island annually attracts around 250,000 people.

Some detractors worry the construction of the observation tower would increase the ecological footprint on land that's only accessible by a long walk from Clearwater Beach or ferry. But the discovery center would be built over the old demolished fire tower near the ranger's station, Farris said, therefore not breaking new ground.

Caladesi Island State Park manager Pete Krulder said the discovery center would help people appreciate the wildlife and be inspired to preserve it.

"It would create a new visitor experience and teach people about all the beautiful plants and animals," said Krulder, who calls Caladesi his "favorite place in the world."

"It wouldn't develop the island. If anything, it'd protect it."

Danielle Paquette can be reached at

Caladesi Island

The state park is one of the few undeveloped islands along the gulf coast of Florida. The park is accessible by boat or ferry. Ferry service is provided by the Caladesi Island Ferry and departs from Honeymoon Island State Park at the end of the Dunedin Causeway. Ferry fees are $14 for adults, $7 for children ages 6 through 12, and free for children 5 and younger. For information, call (727) 734-1501.

Proposed Caladesi Discovery Center would provide miles of island views 03/27/13 [Last modified: Friday, March 29, 2013 6:05pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. The awkward photo of the Pope, Trump and first family that's taking the internet by storm

    Global Warming

    VATICAN CITY — On Wednesday, Pope Francis appeared to make his point with a gift.

    Ivanka Trump, first lady Melania Trump and President Donald Trump meet with Pope Francis at the Vatican, Wednesday.  [Evan Vucci/Pool via The New York Times]
  2. Tampa police say 41-year-old man shot and killed by ex-boss, investigation ongoing


    TAMPA — A 41-year-old man was shot and killed by his former boss Wednesday morning outside the West Tampa auto body shop where they once worked together, according to Tampa police.

  3. Father and brother of alleged bomber detained in Libya


    The father and younger brother of the man who British police say bombed an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester have been detained in Libya, where anti-terror authorities said the brother confessed to knowing "all the details" of the attack plot.

    Hashim Ramadan Abedi appears inside the Tripoli-based Special Deterrent anti-terrorism force unit after his arrest on Tuesday for alleged links to the Islamic State extremist group. Abedi is the brother of Salman Abedi, who has been identified as the man behind the bombing that killed 22 people and wounded scores at an Ariana Grande concert Monday night in Manchester. [Ahmed Bin Salman, Special Deterrent Force via AP]
  4. Marijuana extract Epidiolex helps some kids with epilepsy, study shows


    A medicine made from marijuana, without the stuff that gives a high, cut seizures in kids with a severe form of epilepsy in a study that strengthens the case for more research into pot's possible health benefits.

    An employee checks a plant at LeafLine Labs, a medical marijuana production facility in Cottage Grove, Minn. [Associated Press (2015)]
  5. CBO analysis: 23 million would lose health coverage under House-passed bill


    WASHINGTON — The Republican health care bill that passed the House earlier this month would nearly double the number of Americans without health insurance over the next decade, according to a new analysis by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.

    President Donald Trump held a press conference in the Rose Garden at the White House with members of the GOP on May 4 after the House passed legislation to roll back the Affordable Care Act. [Cheriss May | Sipa USA via TNS]