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Kapok Travel Park may be history

The peacocks and the seasonal residents may have to find a new place to spend their winters.

The couple who have owned the Kapok Travel Park at the gateway to the city for 19 of its 30-plus years say they are ready to retire. Site plans have been filed for a 7-Eleven convenience store and a 10,000-square-foot restaurant to be built there.

The buildings would be constructed on 4.3 acres at the northwest corner of Gulf-to-Bay Boulevard and McMullen-Booth Road.

Past the roar of the automobile and airplane traffic is a quiet, grassy park, dotted with palms and oaks and 70 paved spots for travel trailers.

The park is much busier in the winter, when residents of the North come to stay in trailers, some of which they leave in the park year-round. They enjoy watching about 10 wild peacocks that live in the area.

When one of the older male peacocks, which they nicknamed "Pete," got run over by a car a couple of years ago, they held a funeral, buried it and put up a cross.

"It is heartbreaking" that the park may close, said Donna Howard, 58, of Hillsdale, Mich., who has spent winters there for eight years. She said she and her husband, Willis, 59, were there so they could be near her parents, Donovan Bumpus, 89, and Ruth Bumpus, 84.

Bumpus said he and his wife have spent winters at the park for 32 years.

Mrs. Howard rides around the park in her tricycle, with her sheltie dog Cowboy riding in the basket in the back.

The owners of the property, Merle and Dolores Amic of Tarpon Springs, said the property has not been sold. They declined to comment about the site plans filed by Walter Development Group of Tampa.

Mrs. Amic did say they told their longtime winter residents this spring that they want to retire and that the property might be sold before next winter. Meanwhile, they are still leasing spaces on a month-to-month basis.

Michael Bronson of Walter Development did not return phone calls seeking comment. The site plan did not specify any particular type of restaurant.

The trailer park property and a small piece of land directly on the corner are assessed at about $519,000. The property appraiser's office says assessments generally are about 80 percent of market value.

Both the Howards and Bumpuses have sold their trailers just in case the park is sold this year and they can't come back next winter.

Bumpus said if his wife, who is in Morton Plant Hospital, is able to return to the area next winter, they will buy another trailer in another park down the road.

"I'm counting on it," he said.