Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Tarpon residents, prepare to put away the sunscreen

Rodney Johnson of Trinity casts Monday from the mile-long causeway at Fred Howard Park. The beach and causeway will close in September for  bridge repair. Johnson, who said he fishes at the park three times a week, is not looking forward to the closure. “I’d have to buy a boat,” he said.


Rodney Johnson of Trinity casts Monday from the mile-long causeway at Fred Howard Park. The beach and causeway will close in September for bridge repair. Johnson, who said he fishes at the park three times a week, is not looking forward to the closure. “I’d have to buy a boat,” he said.

TARPON SPRINGS — It was news no one wanted to hear.

Residents and tourists alike were shocked Monday when they heard the beach at Fred Howard Park was going to close temporarily for bridge reconstruction.

Where else could they swim, fish and Jet Ski all in one spot without spending a dime?

"We might just have to hang out in Mom and Dad's pool more," said Jose Martinez, 40.

Jose Martinez used to live in Palm Harbor and comes back to the area often with his wife and three children from their home in Richmond, Va. With its clean beach and family-friendly atmosphere, Howard Park is the place to go, he said.

The causeway and beach will be closed for about 15 months beginning in September so crews can rebuild two aging bridges that have been battered by tides and cars for 40 years, said park supervisor Bob Zakrzewski.

Demolition and reconstruction is scheduled to begin Sept. 2, the day after Labor Day.

The closing may be inconvenient for beachgoers for the next year or so, but safety is paramount, Zakrzewski said.

"Once it's open, it's open and we're good for another 40 years," he said.

The causeway and beach will be completely off-limits. This means no beach access — by foot, car, bike or boat — and no fishing or boating from the causeway. The water scooter launch area will also be closed.

But visitors can still enjoy the 55-acre mainland park area to the east of the causeway, including the picnic shelters and playgrounds, Zakrzewski said. The canoe and kayak trails will also remain open.

The $4.8-million project is being funded through Penny of Pinellas. ZEP Construction Inc. of Fort Myers provided the lowest bid of 11 submittals, coming in well under the county staff estimate of $5.7-million.

The new bridges will look similar to the existing ones but will be more resistant to erosion by saltwater. Silt barriers will be erected to mitigate damage to the environment and natural wildlife habitats, county officials said.

On Monday, parkgoers said they had no idea the beach was going to be closed at the end of the summer. Though all agreed the bridges should be fixed, many lamented the temporary loss of the free parking and easy beach access that Howard Park offers.

Tarpon Springs resident Michael Fix said he comes to the park every day to fish, swim and picnic with his children. On Monday, Fix was rinsing off after a dip in the gulf with his two black Labs, Maybbie and Blazie.

"This is my refuge," Fix said. "There's going to be some unhappy campers around here, and I'm going to be one of them."

Fix, 46, said he'd do just about anything to keep the beach open during construction. Maybe he'd start a petition, or call his elected officials, he said.

His son, Michael Jr., 15, had another idea.

"I'm going to chain myself to the bridge," he joked.

Rita Farlow can be reached at or (727) 445-4162.

Popular park has many amenities

Fred Howard Park, 1700 Sunset Drive, on the Gulf of Mexico in Tarpon Springs, is named in honor of Fred H. Howard, former mayor of Tarpon Springs and longtime vice chairman of the Pinellas County Park Board. The county park features nine picnic shelters, six restrooms, two playgrounds, and canoe and kayak trails. The 1-mile causeway slated for reconstruction is popular among joggers, bicyclists and anglers. For information, visit the county Web site at

park/06_howard.htm, or call the park at 943-4081.

By the numbers


Year the causeway and bridges were built


Cost of bridge reconstruction

155 acres

Size of Fred Howard Park


Annual number of visitors to the park

Source: Pinellas County

Tarpon residents, prepare to put away the sunscreen 06/16/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, June 24, 2008 11:34am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. College football week 4: Tampa Bay Times staff predictions


    The Times' college football coverage team makes its picks for week 4 of the college football season:

    USF coach Charlie Strong and the Bulls face Temple in a 7:30 p.m. game Thursday at Raymond James Stadium. LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times
  2. KB Home cuts CEO's bonus after vulgar rant at Kathy Griffin (w/video)

    Real Estate

    NEW YORK — One of the nation's biggest homebuilders is putting its top executive on notice after a vulgar rant against comedian Kathy Griffin was caught on tape and went viral.

    Comic Kathy Griffin and KB Home CEO Jeffrey Mezger are neighbors. [Associated Press]
  3. Men of Vision get to work after Hurricane Irma


    Answering the call to action after the departure of Hurricane Irma, they cleaned up fallen branches in mid-Tampa neighborhoods and in Rowlett Park, where they toiled alongside Tampa city workers, and they came out in force to clean up the Hillsborough River, pulling out gas cans, trash cans, old tires and even a …

    hillsmov092217: The Men of Vision helped clean up Rowlett Park in the wake of Hurricane Irma last week. Photo courtesy of Hillsborough County Public Schools.
  4. Visitors get in free Saturday at Tampa Bay History Center


    Times staff

    TAMPA — Nothing to do Saturday? Go back in history.

    Machine gun at the ready, a paratrooper of the U.S. 82nd Airborne Brigade advances cautiously  near Hue, South Vietnam on April 3, 1968.
  5. MacDill chuckling as UFO website reports 'flying triangles' at base: Howard Altman


    My Twitter feed on MacDill Air Force Base has been out of this world lately.


    Michael Salla, who runs an extraterrestrial research website, claims these are images taken of UFOs near MacDill Air Force Base earlier this month. []