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Developers consider campground

After a setback last month in their efforts to build a marina on the Cross Florida Barge Canal, would-be marina developers now are turning to a second option for land they own nearby: a campground.

The 46 acres being considered for the development would be named the Nature Coast Landings Campground and would hold a combination of simple cabins for indoor camping and recreational vehicle spaces, along with a bathhouse and convenience store, said Jim Eyster, who heads a group of 65 shareholders who have pushed for the marina for more than a decade.

Last month, the state Department of Environmental Protection decided not to issue two environmental permits, finding that the marina's planners had not proved that underground drinking water would be protected.

The ruling threw a major barrier into plans for the 319-slip marina, leading Eyster and other investors in Citrus Recreational Marina Inc. to turn to other ideas.

The 46 acres considered for the campground came through a purchase from landowner Dixie Hollins in 1994, Eyster said. The land lies west of the proposed marina's 135-acre spot and south of a Florida Marine Patrol station on U.S. 19.

Eyster said the campground would go well with the state's plans to open a trail head to the Greenway Trail on the edge of the barge canal, within walking distance.

This time, he said he hopes critics will find fewer, if any, problems with the development proposal. "It's an apple-pie-and-motherhood type of development," Eyster said. "I don't think anybody could have a concern or an objection about it."

Marina opponent Jim Blount said he has not seen a plan for the development but said the idea sounds compatible with the purposes of the Greenway.

Blount said, though, that he is concerned about whether the development would include adequate buffering from the trail and how the developers could link the campground to water and sewer utilities. "The biggie is going to be the infrastructure," Blount said.

Eyster said plans for the campground remain in a preliminary stage: "We are not in a position to nail it down at this time," he said.

However, he said, cabins would offer various levels of furnishings _ from those with bunk-style cots for use with sleeping bags to those with mattresses.

Eyster also said he and other investors are considering the idea of a bed-and-breakfast type of operation on the land, depending on demand for that sort of a development.

The most significant attribute of the project, Eyster said, is that it will serve people who subscribe to a "back-to-nature" view of tourism.

"There appears to be a definite swing from the "glitz and glamor' tourism of many of Florida's man-made attractions to that of eco-tourism," Eyster said in a press release received Monday.