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Dunedin Causeway to get a new look

Pinellas County agrees to give Dunedin $30,000 a mile for landscape plants and $10,000 per mile per year to maintain them.

Many who frequent the Dunedin Causeway have long felt that with a little attention, the 2{-mile stretch could be a showplace to rival the Clearwater Memorial Causeway.

The same natural elements are there: blue seas and white beaches.

But the Dunedin Causeway today is a mostly barren route that happens to lead to one of the area's prettiest recreation areas, Honeymoon Island.

Now, after many years of public fussing over the causeway's neglected appearance, Pinellas County and the city of Dunedin are working together to transform it into a colorfully landscaped, scenic drive. The county has agreed to give Dunedin $30,000 a mile to purchase landscape plants and an additional $10,000 per mile per year for maintenance of the causeway, most of which is owned by the county.

The city has developed a landscaping plan that will add hundreds of trees and flowering bushes on 1.7 miles of the causeway, as well as a decorative gateway for its eastern end. The city is expected to begin the work this summer, said Dunedin Leisure Services Director Harry Gross.

"It's going to make a pretty significant difference in the way it looks," Gross said. "It will give it a lot of color out there."

The plans, designed by city arborist Art Finn, call for hundreds of pink, white and red oleander bushes to be planted in clusters of 40 along the north and south sides. Also, dozens of sabal palms and sea grape shrubs will be added.

Sabal palms and sea grape will be planted to screen the trash bin beside the bathrooms, and more palms and hawthorn bushes will be added to the existing landscape around the area.

The gateway will feature a decorative brick and wrought-iron sign that will be surrounded by red oleander and dwarf Indian hawthorn shrubs. The Dunedin Beach Civic Association has offered to pay for half of the sign, which is expected to cost about $1,200, said president Marvin Stone.

He said he is hoping the sign will greet drivers and those using the Pinellas Trail spur along the causeway with a message like: Welcome to Dunedin Beach.

Members of the organization have paid for 12 benches that line the causeway. Stone, who lives in a townhouse on the causeway, said the landscaping effort is needed.

"It does need some beautification," Stone said. He added that the city must be sure to attend to the plants once they are installed.

"It ain't worth a dime if they don't maintain it," he said.

The causeway is a popular recreation area in North Pinellas for sunbathers and fishermen. It is also home to more than 1,500 people who live in condominiums and townhouses along the road.

City officials have long wanted to create a parklike atmosphere on the causeway. Over the years, there have been various efforts by civic groups, the city and the county to spruce up the area. But there has never been money for maintenance, so plants have died.

"I'm very grateful for the amount of money we got, particularly their continued maintenance funding," said City Commissioner Deborah Kynes, who met with county officials to make the arrangement. "The causeway is a really unique feature we should do more with. It will be beautiful."