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A new place to float your boat

The County Commission acts to acquire two properties that will allow Pinellas boaters more opportunities to launch boats.

Published August 2, 2006

[Times photo: Kathleen Flynn]
Gigi Malfa, 5, of Tarpon Springs looks out at fish jumping in the water at the Palm Harbor Resort on Tuesday. The county is looking at purchasing property to preserve boater access to the water. Tuesday, the County Commission voted to make its first two purchases: the Palm Harbor Resort and a marina in Tarpon Springs.

CLEARWATER - Boaters soon will have more launching options in North Pinellas, thanks to the county government.

After failing to close two prior deals, the County Commission on Tuesday voted to purchase a marina in Tarpon Springs and an RV park in Palm Harbor that also has a boat ramp.

With precious coastline being targeted by developers seeking to build upscale waterfront housing, boaters confront a growing scarcity of places to launch their vessels.

So county leaders have been on the lookout since last year for preservation opportunities.

"I'm very glad that we are finally getting one of these to the landing stage," said County Commissioner Susan Latvala. "In the future somebody will look back and say we made a good decision."

The purchase of the Palm Harbor Resort, an RV park on Alt. 19, will involve displacing some tenants. In addition to a boat ramp, bait shop and six rental cottages, the park also is the site of 28 recreation vehicles.

Sixty-two-year-old Chester Hasbrouck and his wife, Gail, have lived at the park for 24 years. He's disabled and doesn't work. She spent more than a decade as the resort's manager and is a cashier at a nearby Publix.

County officials say the resort's owner, Canadian Roy Wilson, would ask park residents to be out by the end of September. The county plans to turn that area into extra parking and install a second boat ramp.

Hasbrouck said Tuesday that neither he nor any of the other roughly 20 families at the park had been told anything. He does not know where he and his wife will go.

"I think it's garbage," Hasbrouck said. "I kind of thought I would sit here and die here."

County Administrator Steve Spratt said none of the residents would be kicked out. The county is sensitive to their situation, he said, and plans to help people relocate.

The 5-acre park will cost the county $3.8-million. Parking fees charged at other public boat ramps and money already budgeted to acquire water access in North Pinellas will cover the amount.

Spratt said the county would likely get rid of the cottages and pool. He said there is no firm timetable for completion.

The other purchase is of Belle Harbour Marina on Anclote Road in Tarpon Springs. Belle Harbour has 110 dry storage units and 18 wet slips, and the facilities will be retained by the county.

The county will issue bonds to finance the $3.6-million purchase. The idea is to pay off those bonds, at a cost of $5.6-million over 20 years, with revenue from the marina.

"It's in very, very fine shape from the bulkheads to the racks to the fuel tanks," Spratt said.

Owner Frank Murray has agreed to stay on for six months to manage the property.

After that time, the county will either use parks department employees to manage the marina or a private contractor.

Existing lease agreements boaters have with the marina will be transferred to the county, which plans to keep fees the same, at least initially.

"It's a good deal for the boaters in the area," Murray said of the deal. "That way, this place will stay a marina."

Will Van Sant can be reached at 445-4166 or

[Last modified August 1, 2006, 22:58:56]

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