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Wonders of Weedon Island

This island has hosted Indians, illicit imbibers and nature lovers, all interacting with the land.

By LIBBY NELSON, Times Staff Writer
Published November 14, 2007


Bruce Rinker, Environmental Lands Division director for Pinellas, looks at seahorse information. He praised the exhibit's message of a human-land connection.
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[JAMES BORCHUCK, Times]
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[JAMES BORCHUCK, Times]
Jerry Richardson lines up vinyl graphics for the 6,000-square-foot permanent exhibit, which ends with a call to action to visitors: to reduce water use.

ST. PETERSBURG - A new exhibit on Weedon Island joins ancient Indian cultures, Prohibition speakeasies and watershed ecology in an exploration of the island's history and environment.

The permanent installation, which opens to the public Saturday, is Pinellas County's first major education exhibit in years, said Meg Korakis of Pinellas County.

The exhibit, called "Connecting People and Place," joins information on the Weedon Island environment to its ancient past and recent history.

The goal is to show how people and the environment interact over time, project manager Jennifer Moore said.

"The environment is a series of dynamic connections," Moore said. "We want to show people are part of the environment and really do have the power to impact it."

Visitors to the 6,000-square-foot exhibit enter into a replica of the island's underwater ecosystem. The silhouette of a kayak hangs overhead. Passing by larger-than-life models of fish and plankton, they ascend to dry land through exhibits on mud flats and estuaries.

The next exhibit, Moore's favorite, depicts the Weedon Island Culture, American Indians who lived along the Gulf Coast 2,500 years ago.

Because anthropologists are unsure what they looked like, Moore opted to use projections of shadows to illustrate members of the society at work. A shadow worker is shown building the shell mounds the cultures left behind. Another works on a birch bark canoe.

Later exhibits deal with the more recent history of Weedon Island, which hosted an airport and a speakeasy in the first half of the 20th century.

"One of our biggest challenges was narrowing down what information to present," Moore said. The group decided that the main message should be the connection between people and their environment, she said.

"The idea that humans are a very important part of the community and that the land is not a commodity" is the point, said Bruce Rinker, the Environmental Lands Division director for Pinellas County.

The exhibit ends with a call to action, discussing how people can help conserve the Tampa Bay watershed.

"People and the environment have always had a mutual impact, and the footprint is even greater than it ever was," Rinker said. "The message will be proceed gently. Be aware of the footprint you leave."

Libby Nelson can be reached at 727 893-8779 or lnelson@sptimes.com.

If you go

'Connecting People and Place'

Weedon Island Preserve Cultural and Natural History Center

1800 Weedon Drive NE

Opens at 10 a.m. Saturday

Regular hours: Wednesday-Sunday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Free admission

[Last modified November 13, 2007, 23:24:16]


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