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Park to preserve a bit of citrus history

Six acres of the old Taylor family homestead will become part of Eagle Lake Park, joining 157 acres brought in 1998. A chunk of that will stay as groves.

By WILL VAN SANT
Published April 7, 2006


LARGO - A swatch of Pinellas County's rich citrus-growing heritage will be preserved as part of the Eagle Lake Park project.

The County Commission this week agreed to spend nearly $2.4-million to purchase the old Taylor family homestead and make the 6 acres ready to serve as an example of what citrus-growing operations that once thrived in the area looked like.

"It will be living history," county parks and recreation department director Paul Cozzie said. "The citrus industry has pretty much disappeared."

In 1998, the county paid $13-million to buy 157 surrounding acres from the Taylor family, who settled the area in 1835.

The park is at the intersection of Keene and Belleair roads, and for years area residents debated the final design, which the County Commission approved last June.

It calls for six picnic shelters, about 250 parking places, boardwalks along several lakes and a dog park next to Keene Road.

There are also about 45 acres of orange, grapefruit and tangerine trees on the property. The county plans to preserve a large portion of the redolent citrus tree tract, although no final decision has been made about how much.

Per the terms of his agreement with the county, John Taylor III will be able to live on the homestead for up to two years.

And his grandchildren will be allowed to marry there without charge if they wish.

Reached by telephone this week, the 64-year-old Taylor declined to answer questions, explaining politely that he never talks to the press.

"That's John Taylor," Cozzie said when a reporter relayed the conversation. "He's probably what original Florida is all about."

Cozzie said construction on the park project, which has a cost of nearly $8-million, will begin late next year.

Construction should take 12 to 18 months.

--Will Van Sant can be reached at 445-4166 or vansant@sptimes.com

[Last modified April 7, 2006, 01:31:16]


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