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Lost a key? It might be on a 30-foot chain of lost keys at Fort De Soto Park

TIERRA VERDE

One day more than 20 years ago, a Fort De Soto Park employee took a couple of keys from lost and found and strung them together.

It makes sense. It's a lot easier to look for lost keys in a lineup than in a pile in a box or a drawer.

So that chain became the place where every key or set of keys found in the park — by workers or visitors — is placed.

The chain is now more than 30 feet long. It hangs, looped down and up like a big snake, on a wall at park headquarters.

The older part of the chain contains a lot of single keys smashed so tightly together, they can barely be rotated. They aren't rusty, but they have definitely lost their sheen.

Like a trip down Memory Lane, the chain winds through time. No one knows exactly when the chain was actually started or who started it. More and more things seem to be affixed to the keys.

They include all those things that end up on a key chain: photographs of kids, a novelty item from high school or college, cards from libraries and stores.

Somewhere in the key time line begin the fobs, those little instruments that remotely lock and unlock car doors, those little instruments that are so expensive to replace.

"They cost a couple hundred dollars," said Jim Wilson, park supervisor.

It's tough for the park workers to determine exactly what percentage of found keys go unclaimed, but Wilson said, "We have plenty of people who are reunited with their stuff."

Keys aren't the only things that wind up at park headquarters.

"We get cameras and cell phones and glasses," Wilson said.

Wilson retrieved a box of unclaimed cell phones from this year and counted them: 22.

The park holds onto items for a year, tagging and dating each one. An effort is made to contact the owners if an item has identification. Some of the unclaimed items are donated to help others.

"There is life after loss," Wilson said.

"We take the cell phones to be reprogrammed to dial 911 for battered women.

"And we take the glasses to the Lion's Club every December," Wilson said.

Purses and wallets are also kept for a year, unless they contain anything valuable. If so, they are turned over to the Sheriff's Office immediately.

A lot of items end up in the lost and found, but to put it in perspective, the park has one of the best beaches in the country and had more than 3 million visitors last year.

Fast facts

Lose something?

Here are some of the items that were recently turned into the park's lost and found:

• A football• A radio

• A backpack• A paddle

• A fishing pole • Dog leashes

• Folding chairs• Umbrellas

• A cane

• A Marine Corps dress hat

• A beach bag with a Bible inside

• A Kama sutra yoga book

If you think you lost something at the park, you can call (727) 552-1862 or stop in any day from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Lost a key? It might be on a 30-foot chain of lost keys at Fort De Soto Park 06/23/09 [Last modified: Saturday, June 27, 2009 11:26am]

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