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Future of Shell Key debated

The current draft of a plan to manage Shell Key would ban pets and possession of alcohol at the island.

By NICK JOHNSON, Times Staff Writer
Published August 30, 2007


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Environmentalists concerned about the impact of partying on Shell Key and boaters wanting to keep their current privileges made their arguments at the Shell Key Advisory Board meeting Wednesday night.

About 100 people were in attendance at the last opportunity for the public to comment on the drafted 2007 Shell Key Management Plan before it heads to the County Commission workshop in September.

If the current draft is adopted, it would ban pets, which are currently allowed with a leash, require a permit for overnight camping and ban the possession of alcohol from the preserve and surrounding waters.

"It's a little on the strict side," Ronnie Duncan, chairman of the board of county commissioners said about the ban. "I think there's a way to come at that particular issue and find a middle ground."

For years Shell Key Preserve, commonly referred to as Shell Island, has been a popular weekend and holiday destination for many local boaters. Now environmentalist groups and the county department of environmental management say the partying has begun to interfere with nesting shore birds.

Largo resident Pat Edmund, 60, came out to support the changes.

She said her work as a volunteer for the county and the Audubon of Clearwater have shown her the damage by partiers and dogs on the preserve. "Even dog's on a leash are seen as predators, and the eggs will be abandoned to either bake in the sun or be eaten," She said.

Most boaters said that the laws in place were more than adequate with proper enforcement.

"It's not hard to come up with some efforts to find a middle ground and enforce them," Wade Cullis, 53, of Tierra Verde said.

But some said the changes only address the special interests of environmental groups.

"For some reason there's a group of people who are pushing their prohibitionist views on the boaters on Shell Island when it's legal in the state of Florida," said Ed Silverberg, 50, of St. Petersburg .

The county's lease agreement from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection requires the county to manage the preserve for conservation and protection of the natural resources there, while also providing for public recreation.

County commissioners will meet for a workshop to discuss the draft on Sept. 11 and are scheduled to adopt a new plan in October.

Nick Johnson can be reached at nickjohnson@sptimes.com or 727 893-8361.

FAST FACTS

On the agenda

Next public meeting on the 2007 Shell Key Management Plan:

Pinellas County Commission meeting, Tuesday, Sept. 11, 9:30 a.m. at 315 Court St., Clearwater.

[Last modified August 30, 2007, 00:32:07]


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