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Donation of land sought for park
By JAMES THORNER
© St. Petersburg Times, published February 27, 2000
LAND O'LAKES -- For two years, the Heritage Park Foundation has focused on building a historical museum on Pasco County School Board property west of U.S. 41.
But after struggling so far unsuccessfully to raise several hundred thousand dollars to satisfy the School Board, Heritage Park is training its sights on greener pastures.
Park organizers plan to ask for a donation of 13 acres beside the Baldomero Lopez State Veterans Nursing Home at Ehren Cutoff and Parkway Boulevard.
The land, the proposed site of a water treatment plant, is owned by Pasco County. But local veterans believe Pasco might fork over the property for a park dedicated to the community's Cracker heritage.
Foundation member John Mitchell, commander of the Land O'Lakes Disabled American Veterans, said his fellow veterans had considered the property for a memorial park. Mitchell sees no reason why they couldn't fold that project into Heritage Park.
"The School Board had a $200,000 price tag on their land. That's way out of line," Mitchell said. "The best thing would be to switch to a different location."
Organizers originally envisioned Heritage Park occupying the 5 acres owned by the School Board behind the Land O'Lakes Community Center on U.S. 41. That would allow the foundation to build its exhibits, including replicas of antique log cabins, alongside sports fields.
But School Board members, strapped for cash to build new schools, have suggested selling the land to the highest bidder. Heritage Park Foundation has struggled to come up with even a fraction of the asking price.
The organization's coffers hold less than $5,000. Gov. Jeb Bush vetoed a request for $200,000 in this year's state budget.
Although state Rep. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, is requesting $500,000 in next year's budget, the foundation won't count on it.
"We're entertaining all different options here," foundation president Kurt Conover said. "We have nothing in concrete."
Conover and Mitchell plan to broach the topic of the land donation with County Commissioner Pat Mulieri, a Heritage Park supporter.
Doug Bramlett, the county administrator responsible for utilities, said Pasco acquired the land with a mind to building a water plant or storage tank.
The county hasn't decided whether to build the water plant there or to wait for the construction of a regional water plant farther north on Ehren Cutoff, Bramlett said.
Pasco donated several acres to the nursing home, which celebrated its one-year anniversary Friday. But Bramlett had no idea if the park idea is practical.
"Nobody's talked to me about it yet," he said.
Mitchell said he is convinced the land donation is feasible, particularly if veterans groups throw their weight behind the museum. Heritage Park would offer a pleasant diversion for the ailing vets at the home.
© St. Petersburg Times. All rights reserved.