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Largo Narrows Nature Center is dedicated

Several dozen children, all with no memory of the days when Pinellas County was still grassland and cows, stood along with their parents Saturday to help dedicate the Largo Narrows Nature Center. For them, it was a time to run and play; for their parents, it was a time to note the city's accomplishments.

At the ceremony, 250 people paid tribute to the city officials who pushed to get the park open and the center built. The Stars and Stripes was honored. Awards were given.

"This is one piece of land that we can keep in its natural state, I'm happy for that," said Rose Shaw, 28, of Seminole. "I'd like there to be more places like this so my daughter can see what this area was like years ago."

The 3,000-square-foot environmental center, an addition to Largo Narrows Nature Park, is to be a place where the young and old learn about wildlife.

Michael and Janet Rosen of Clearwater enjoyed the center's playground with their four nieces and nephews as speakers discussed the center's value.

"We get the family together, come out here, walk around and play at the park," Michael Rosen said. "There are lots of things to enjoy and see out here."

Joshua Metcalf, 9, of Largo was fascinated with an albino snake at one of the center's exhibits. Being at the park is nice because there is plenty of space to run and play, he said.

"I like it out here because we can play and see neat things," he said.

Wildlife at the park includes raccoons, armadillos, rabbits, herons, nesting ospreys and owls.

It was a photograph of an osprey nest that won Colleen Rafferty, 12, third-place in the center's photography contest.

"I enjoy photography, and the wildlife here is easy to take pictures of," she said.

The center is scheduled to hold summer camps for children in grades one through six, and it plans to organize school field trips, said Tammy Peterson, the center's director.

The $2.5-million park on 34 acres was bought by the city and county in 1985 for $1.8-million. The park was developed with money from the city, a state grant and a state legislative appropriation.

To reach the center and the park, take Ulmerton/Walsingham Road to 146th Street. The park is the last street to the right before the Indian Rocks bridge to the beach. The parking area is marked clearly.

The center, which charges no admission, is scheduled to be open from 10 a.m. to noon and from 4 to 8 p.m.

A big part of Joe Jeffcoat's job as a volunteer at the center is to greet guests at the gate _ in a furry raccoon outfit.

"It brings home the purpose of the center," said Jeffcoat, 15. "But the job is hot, very hot."

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