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    Millennium Park will take stage a tad late

    A dedication ceremony in April to open the 182-acre Boca Ciega Millennium Park will include sealing a time capsule in a vault.

    By MAUREEN BYRNE

    © St. Petersburg Times, published March 28, 2001


    SEMINOLE -- After a sneak preview in July and a series of delays, Pinellas County's newest park -- Boca Ciega Millennium Park -- will open to the public April 7.

    A grand opening and dedication ceremony is scheduled for 10 a.m. Admission is free.

    County commissioners will dedicate a time capsulecontaining about 150 historical items, including a baseball signed by Wade Boggs, 2000 yearbooks from local schools, a copy of area poet Peter Meinke's collection Liquid Paper and a Pinellas County sheriff's badge. The capsule will be in a sealed vault at the entrance of the park, which abuts Boca Ciega Bay.

    "As much as the public is anticipating the opening, so is our department," said park supervisor Judy Jarosz.

    Jarosz will oversee a staff of 10, who will manage the 182-acre park at 12410 Old Oakhurst Road in Seminole.

    One of 14 county parks, Boca Ciega Millennium Park features a canoe and kayak launch, playground, nature trail, seven picnic shelters and a bicycle and pedestrian path.

    Richard and Janis Scott have been waiting eagerly for the park to open. The couple are avid kayakers and live only two blocks from the park.

    "We are so excited," Mrs. Scott said.

    A 35-foot-high observation tower offers a panoramic view of Boca Ciega Bay and the wetlands surrounding the park.

    A boardwalk along the water's edge will be completed later this year.

    "We have excellent bird-watching out here," Jarosz said.

    Inside the park, visitors will see five ponds, pine flatwoods, mangrove swamps and a variety of native plants.

    Construction on the park began in September 1999. The county hosted a sneak preview in July 2000. About 1,000 people attended, twice as many as expected.

    Officials wanted the park finished by the end of last year. But in September, they said construction problems and summer rains would delay the opening. Then, design changes and additional work extended the job into the spring of this year.

    Now, it's ready.

    "We're excited about this," said Joe Lupardus, the county's assistant park director. "This is going to offer a lot of opportunities for people who enjoy the outdoors and its natural surroundings. People can go there and feel like they're miles away."

    - Contact staff writer Maureen Byrne at 445-4163 or at byrne@sptimes.com.

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