Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Clearwater eyes state grant to buy land around Lake Chautauqua Park

The sun sets over Lake Chautauqua Park in Clearwater.

DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times (1999)

The sun sets over Lake Chautauqua Park in Clearwater.

CLEARWATER — Found near the center of Florida's most densely populated county, the land around Lake Chautauqua represents a rarity: open wilderness.

But keeping it that way isn't cheap. Applying for a state grant to acquire more land near the lake could end up costing the city up to $1.6 million.

Parks and recreations director Kevin Dunbar is asking for the City Council's approval to apply for a land preservation grant under the Florida Forever program. For years, the program has helped cities buy undeveloped land for public use. A similar grant helped the city's northern neighbor, Dunedin, open the waterfront Weaver Park this month.

Dunbar said the grant could help buy 20 acres near the city's 41-acre Lake Chautauqua Park, extending the parkland between U.S. 19 and McMullen-Booth Road. The park sits next to horse stables, the Boy Scouts' Camp Soule and the 27-acre Lake Chautauqua Equestrian and Nature Preserve, bought in 2008 with $3.7 million from the city and the Florida Communities Trust.

Council members discussed the issue at a work session Tuesday and will vote on it at their meeting Thursday night. Most of them appear to favor the idea.

If the city was chosen for a Florida Forever grant, Dunbar said, the state would pay for 60 percent of the land, which likely costs between $3 million and $4 million.

The problem? To pay the remaining 40 percent, the city would need to draw from its park impact fees fund — which is empty. Officials drained it to pay for land on Drew Street next to the Joe DiMaggio Sports Complex, said assistant city manager Jill Silverboard.

That means that if the city did win the grant, it would be on the hook for up to $1.6 million from some other source.

Council member Paul Gibson didn't have much faith that the impact fund, which developers pay into, would refill anytime soon. "About the only crane I've seen around here has been stuff the city's building," Gibson said. "The private sector's building nothing."

Dunbar said the application is just the first step in a process that would take about two years to play out. The land's price could change with a more recent appraisal, as it did at Weaver Park. And in two years, if the city does win a grant, the council would not be required to accept or match the grant if the cost was still too high. "We just want to get ourselves in the line right now," Dunbar said. "Nothing is going to obligate us."

The city is promised at least some state money at the park this year. The state's Recreational Trails Program is splitting a $400,000 project with the city that will install a parking lot, benches and a 2-mile shell trail for horse riders, hikers and mountain cyclists. Access to the new Lake Chautauqua trails should be open by October, Dunbar said.

Florida Forever's future is a little more doubtful. Gov. Rick Scott's proposed budget, released last week, would not fund the program at all, making him the first governor to zero out the program since it launched as "Preservation 2000" in 1990. Last year, Florida Forever received $15 million — greatly slashed from its former standard of $300 million a year.

Some council members said applying for the grant, as it operates now, only makes sense. Vice Mayor John Doran said he would let the council make the decision in two years if the grant is too costly. "I think we should reserve the right to change our minds later," he said.

Mayor Frank Hibbard also lent his support, saying that protecting open land from dense development could be worth the pursuit.

"If you've lived in the county for a long time, you remember when McMullen-Booth was a two-lane road with ranches on both sides," Hibbard said. "This is a unique opportunity for a future council. … To let that opportunity pass is foolishness."

Contact Drew Harwell at or (727) 445-4170.

Clearwater eyes state grant to buy land around Lake Chautauqua Park 02/15/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, February 15, 2011 7:44pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. ICYMI: Florida education news in review, week of July 16, 2017


    Seems like Broward County has started a domino effect. It was the first school board to commit to filing a lawsuit against the state and its controversial education bill, House Bill 7069. Then, the St. Lucie County School Board signed on, too. A running tally of school boards that have reportedly expressed interested in …

    Kali Davis (left), training director for Springboard to Success, helps to coach Justin Black (center), who will be starting his third year of teaching PE at Melrose Elementary, as he works to instruct students in a math lesson during the Spring Board program of Summer Bridge at Woodlawn Elementary School in St. Petersburg.
  2. In advertising, marketing diversity needs a boost in Tampa Bay, nationally


    TAMPA — Trimeka Benjamin was focused on a career in broadcast journalism when she entered Bethune-Cookman University.

    From left, Swim Digital marketing owner Trimeka Benjamin discusses the broad lack of diversity in advertising and marketing with 22 Squared copywriter Luke Sokolewicz, University of Tampa advertising/PR professor Jennifer Whelihan, Rumbo creative director George Zwierko and Nancy Vaughn of the White Book Agency. The group recently met at The Bunker in Ybor City.
  3. Kushner to testify before two intelligence committees


    WASHINGTON— President Donald Trump's senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner is set to make a second appearance on Capitol Hill — he will speak with the House Intelligence Committee on Tuesday, one day after he is scheduled to speak with Senate Intelligence Committee investigators behind closed doors.

    White House senior adviser Jared Kushner is scheduled to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee and the House Intelligence Committee. [Associated Press]
  4. Rays blow lead in ninth, lose in 10 to Rangers (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Rays manager Kevin Cash liked the way Alex Cobb was competing Friday night. He liked the way the hard contact made by the Rangers batters went away after the second or third inning. So as the game headed toward the ninth, there was no doubt in Cash's mind that sending Cobb back to the mound was …

    Rays starter Alex Cobb can hardly believe what just happened as he leaves the game in the ninth after allowing a leadoff double then a tying two-run homer to the Rangers’ Shin-Soo Choo.
  5. Exhumation of Dalí's remains finds his mustache still intact


    FIGUERES, Spain — Forensic experts in Spain have removed hair, nails and two long bones from Salvador Dalí's embalmed remains to aid a court-ordered paternity test that may enable a woman who says she is the surrealist artist's daughter to claim part of Dalí's vast estate.

    Salvador Dal? died in 1989 leaving vast estate.