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Lealman to get signs at boundaries

(ran West edition)

First, a geography test. True or false?

1. Commuters driving through the 34th Street and 54th Avenue N intersection are in St. Petersburg.

2. The 58th Avenue N and 49th Street intersection is in Pinellas Park.

3. Drivers waiting for the light to change at Park Street and 54th Avenue N are in Seminole.

The correct answers are false, false and false.

In all three instances, you are in Lealman, an unincorporated area of Pinellas County.

Many people who live there don't even know it. Ray Neri, head of the Lealman Community Association, has an article titled "Do You Know Where You Live?" in the latest edition of the community newsletter.

Soon the guessing can stop. Lealman is getting signs.

Within the next month, "Entering Lealman" signage will greet commuters.

Pretty heady stuff for a place that doesn't formally exist.

"We do exist. Go on MSN.com. Bill Gates says we exist. If god says we exist, we exist," Neri said with a laugh.

More seriously, Neri said, Lealman does exist in the hearts and minds of its residents. Lealman is defined by its boundaries and the residents' common interests, goals and identities.

"We're proud of Lealman," Neri said. "Most people think we're something we're not. I think people will be very surprised at what we do."

The revitalization team of county officials and residents working to improve the unincorporated area had as an initial goal decorative signage to delineate community boundaries.

On Thursday, when Gordon Beardslee of the county planning department informed them of the signage, there were cries of "Yea!" and "Just do it!"

The first signs likely will go at the entrances to Lealman along 54th Avenue N and 49th Street, Beardslee said.

"You think you exist; you feel you exist; all of a sudden you see a sign saying you exist; it's reinforcement," Neri said. "Recognition is a very powerful thing. I think people respond to it and the people in Lealman are responding to it, obviously."

The reaction is laden with humor as people joked about positioning the signs just right, especially as the area's borders change through annexations.

"Put it on the back of the Pinellas Park sign," suggested Vivian Campbell. That way, the sign will be moved as Pinellas Park moves its sign to conform to new city borders. "It'll save money."

John Frank said, "The one on 49th will have to be put on wheels."

Neri wanted to know if anything could be written on the signs.

Beardslee: "Anything?"

Neri: "So they can say, "Thank God you're leaving Pinellas Park. Welcome to Lealman.' "

Then Neri suggested something more serious for the signs: "Lealman, a community under redevelopment."

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