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Weedon building plans detailed

Published Sep. 27, 2005

The more things change around Weedon Island, the more they stay the same. That, at least, is the prevailing hope among the Friends of Weedon Island, who await a large "interpretive center" for American Indian history with eagerness and uncertainty.

At an annual meeting Monday, Connie Kone, one of the group's founders, summarized plans for the center, which will include classroom space and exhibits about the low-lying islands south of Derby Lane.

Like other county officials who have been involved with the project, environmental lands manager Will Davis predicted the interpretive center would come under the maximum estimate of 100,000 square feet, with a budget of $4.5-million.

Those are welcome assurances to the Friends, who find themselves in the position of approving new construction and billboards for a preserve. The billboards are part of an effort to boost membership (now 146).

Anyone can join the Friends of Weedon Island. Annual dues start at $10 and extend upward to "platinum sponsor" levels of $1,000 or more, a rank held by Derby Lane and Florida Power Corp.

Not all came to applaud the plans. Tony McCoy, a past president of the St. Petersburg Bicycle Club, said he wondered how the new center would affect noise, pollution and traffic. The bicyclists make three trips Saturday and Sunday around Weedon's three-mile loop.

"Sunday morning, I never see a car," McCoy said. He plans to savor the solitude while he can.

"It's almost like Florida in general. Once you have something that's successful, the success builds on itself _ and all of a sudden, you have something that's too big and overgrown and has too many cars."

In other matters:

The Friends granted three additional scholarship spaces, valued at $135 each, for the Weedon Island Summer Camp, which introduces fourth-, fifth- and sixth-graders to the natural beauty and history of the preserve.

Representatives from The Pier Aquarium and the St. Petersburg Museum of History contribute educational tour guides. The decision brought the total number of scholarships targeting disadvantaged children to 10. Except for some of these slots, space for the camp's two sessions (July 17-21 and July 31-Aug. 4) is full.

The county is looking for volunteers to help pull Brazilian pepper trees, and for volunteers willing to train to become trail guides and canoe guides. Those interested can call park ranger Sue Ball at 217-7208.

For information on the Friends of Weedon Island, call 576-9100.