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Strictly for the birds

St. Petersburg Advocates engineer a sale to save Bird Island from development.

By MARY JANE PARK, Times Staff Writer
Published September 12, 2007


Bird Island, on Coffee Pot Bayou near downtown St. Petersburg, has become a nature preserve after years of advocacy by nearby residents.

The property, 2.8 acres between the Historic Old Northeast and Snell Isle neighborhoods, is filled with mangroves and is home to around 600 pairs of nesting birds.

A city zoning change that took effect Monday designates the area as conservation land.

The Holland family, longtime owners of the island, sold it to the Scherer Development Co. last year. Although land use maps prohibited development of the island, the city received a drawing that proposed construction of four stilt houses there.

The St. Petersburg Audubon Society, Audubon of Florida and environmental activist Lorraine Margeson began an informational campaign and set out to find a buyer who would not develop the island.

Last December, through an unidentified private buyer, Bird Island LLC acquired the land for $60,000, according to Pinellas County records.

"It was the generosity of a wonderful citizen who made that possible," said City Council member Bill Foster, whose district includes Snell Isle. "It's really the efforts of a lot of people" who advocated for the official designation, he said.

Foster said he never thought developing the island was practical.

Regardless of zoning concerns, he said, construction would require too many permits from too many agencies.

"The logistics of permits and access to city services were too much to overcome," he said. "This way, it can never be developed and it will always be preserved."

"It took a lot of people and a lot of work, plus a bit of luck," Margeson said. "But today, finally, we can say the island is truly and forever for the birds."

The property is also known as Coffee Pot Island and the Coffee Pot bird colony.

The Audubon Society's 2006 count noted 13 species. Six of them - roseate spoonbills, reddish egrets, tricolored herons, little blue herons, snowy egrets and brown pelicans - are listed as species of special concern by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

[Last modified September 11, 2007, 22:55:44]

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