ST. PETERSBURG — Boaters and anglers, get excited. History buffs and conservation lovers, rejoice.
Renovations to Maximo Park's marina will soon be under way, and the entire 40-acre park will be designated an archaeological site.
City Council is poised to approve the changes to the park Thursday.
The park's boat ramps, the most heavily used of the city's nine boat ramp facilities, were built in the 1960s and are no longer up to state code. The seven ramps will be torn out and replaced.
Other improvements will be made to the docks and the parking area. A boat wash area, parking lot lights and a new restroom facility will be added nearby.
Park users will not be affected by the designation of the park as an archaeological site, said Kim Hinder of the city's historic preservation department. "They shouldn't be digging in a city park anyway," she said.
The designation means that any construction at the park must be overseen by someone trained in archaeological resource protection.
In 1992, two areas within the park were designated as historic sites and listed on the National Register of Historic Places. But according to a recent city report, the whole park property is important for its archaeology and ethnic heritage.
Some artifacts found there date back more than 5,000 years, the report said, and others indicate American Indians lived there from that time until 1800. The park could provide clues about American Indian interactions with Europeans.
The first white settler on Pinellas Point, then called Punta Pinal, was commercial fisherman Antonio Maximo Hernandez. The park is named for him.
The park also is important, the report said, because of its history as an African-American beach and its role in the civil rights movement.
Officials say the park could contribute information for scientists and researchers studying "environmental change and prehistoric adaptation, development of settled communities and social complexity, development of plant domestication, acculturation and effect of European contact on aboriginal populations and cultural history."
The city contracted with Tampa Bay Marine Inc. for the $751,000 renovation project. A $200,000 grant from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission will help pay for the boat ramps.
The rest of the project will be paid for by the city through the Penny for Pinellas fund, said Phil Whitehouse, parks and recreation superintendent.
During the several months of construction, he said, the park will stay open and boaters will have access to some of the ramps.
Of the city's nine boat ramp facilities, improvements have already been completed at Jungle Terrace Park and Sunlit Cove and are in the works at the other six.
Alli Langley can be reached at [email protected]