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Colorful fish will mark route along Gulf Boulevard

In an attempt to make the thoroughfare a "tourist boulevard," mile markers designed by a local artist will be erected.

By MEGAN SCOTT, Times Staff Writer
Published October 26, 2003

Driving up and down the Pinellas beaches should be easier before the end of the year.

Simply follow the fish, and you'll know exactly where you are.

That's the plan county officials have for Gulf Boulevard: a colorful fish marking every mile, from Clearwater to Pass-a-Grille.

The hope is the fish markers will make the roadway more attractive and help drivers know how far they've gone and how far they have to go.

"What we've been trying to do is transform that place into a real tourist boulevard, so it looks appealing and attractive," Commissioner Calvin Harris said. "It's too cluttered. You don't know where you are on Gulf Boulevard."

The idea for mile markers came from Jay Goulde, executive director of the Outdoor Arts Foundation. Goulde often skates on the Pinellas Trail and shudders when he sees the mile markers there.

"I have to look at these ugly mile markers," he said. "I thought, "What if we could do these funky mile markers. It would be cool to have something to look forward to when you get to the next mile."'

Goulde ran with the idea. He teamed with Silas Beach, an artist known for his work at Frenchy's restaurant on Clearwater Beach. Beach is also the creator of the artwork in Safety Harbor's new Art Park.

Meanwhile, county commissioners had discussed placing mile markers on Gulf Boulevard. So they took Goulde and Beach's ideas and applied them to that thoroughfare.

Goulde originally wanted markers featuring a different animal for each city, but officials said that would be too expensive and too confusing.

There will be 50 to 60 markers with the same fish on both sides. A smaller sign will have the mile number.

Approving the mile markers was an unusual process, said Gina Harvey, principal planner for the county. She had to work with all the communities along Gulf Boulevard and the state.

County Commission Chairwoman Karen Seel proposed the idea to the Barrier Islands Council, an organization of all Pinellas beach communities. She also talked with several chambers of commerce.

"People really wanted the mile markers," she said. "They felt that was really important to do, having some kind of ambience along Gulf Boulevard."

Plus it's difficult for motorists to read the street sign numbers on Gulf Boulevard, she said. "They change from town to town. The mile markers will help with making identification easier," she said.

The county will pay for the markers - about $30,000 - with money left over from a study on Gulf Boulevard. The cities will cover installation.

Beach has been painting fish for years and loves the tropical colors. He is excited about this project.

"I'm always on the lookout for something cool, new and innovative," Beach said. "I don't know how to explain how cool these markers are."

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