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BIG Boost To Waterfront In Gulfport, Madeira Beach

The cities of Gulfport and Madeira Beach in Pinellas County will soon realize significant improvements for recreational boating and their waterfronts following the award of a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's (USFWS) Boating Infrastructure Grant (BIG).
 
Both cities, on a project cost basis, received BIG Tier-1 fund totaling $380,750 and $822,066 respectively. The total amount awarded includes the BIG grant and a proportionate amount as non-federal funding.

Gavin Shire, a Public Affairs Specialist with USFWS in Arlington, VA, says the "Tier-1 is a smaller and a noncompetitive program awarded to each applying State, while, Tier-2 is a nationally competitive funding program meant for large-scale projects.''

Funded by the Sport Fish Restoration and Boating Trust Fund, the BIG grant gets its revenue from excise taxes collected on fishing equipment, yachts and gasoline.

Gulfport is using the Grant to construct an ADA compliant (Americans With Disabilities Act) floating dock made from composite decking and designed for eight boats.

"Construction is expected to start by January 2014,'' says Denis Frain, Gulfport's Director of Marina Operations. Any unspent funds from the grant will be returned to USFWS after July 2015. According to Frain, "The funded dock will be free of charge and open to the public for use.''

Madeira Beach plans to upgrade its waterfront facilities for vessels, with an increase in 14 slips and four moorings, and other amenities such as pump-out stations and a fuel dock.

Apart from investing in boating infrastructure facilities, both cities may use the funds for production and distribution of educational materials about the program and recreational boating.
 
By creating diverse recreational opportunities, new jobs and a multitude of small businesses, BIG grants can have a significant impact on the local economy.

The BIG grant is crucial to Gulfport, as "it will not only improve boating facilities, but also help the City in its Downtown revitalization efforts,'' says Frain.

Writer: Vinod Kadu
Sources: Gavin Shire, U.S Fish and Wildlife Service; Denis Frain, City of Gulfport

Plan Hillsborough's Future With Imagine 2040

A new effort by the Hillsborough County Planning Commission and the Hillsborough County Metropolitan Planning Organization is encouraging Hillsborough County residents to participate in discussions about the future of both land use and transportation planning -- and you don't even have to leave your house.

The Imagine 2040 effort marks the first time in the history of Hillsborough County that the Planning Commission and Organization have been able to combine the land use and transportation plans together in one planning process. The 2040 Transportation and Comprehensive Plans will cover Tampa, Temple Terrace, Plant City and Hillsborough County.

"This effort is meant to be more wide-range, enabling citizens to participate in the planning process without ever physically having to attend a meeting by using computer and social media technology,'' says Executive Director Hillsborough County MPO Ray Chiaramonte. "We are very excited about this effort and the chance to really hear our citizens' opinions in a more comprehensive way so we can craft a plan that truly reflects the desires of our citizens.''

By 2040, Hillsborough County is expected to have up to 600,000 new residents and about 400,000 new jobs. According to Chiaramonte, Imagine 2040's goal is to work together to turn the challenges that come with growth into opportunities for a thriving future.

How should we grow? By spreading new residents and jobs throughout the county? By focusing on growth in the centers we've already developed and creating new job centers along our major highways? This is your opportunity to design the future of Hillsborough County.

"We're at an important crossroads. Do we want to be a true national leader for job creation and livability for a new generation of young, well-educated high tech workers that can provide the spark we need to become a competitive player with the top communities in this country and in the world?'' asks Chiaramonte. "We have so much going for us without doing a lot that it's certainly within our possibilities to be a mecca for high-paying jobs. We can play it safe and be comfortably mediocre or we can strategically plan for taking our assets and building upon them to create a truly unique, special community for our future and the future of generations to come.''

Ultimately, Imagine 2040 is expected to create a blueprint for the future of Hillsborough County as leaders take a leap forward to get things done. By leveraging federal planning dollars and combining them with local funds, a more comprehensive and unified planning process is available; this gives the county the opportunity to address issues while reaching more residents.

"Together, we can develop a plan that has all the aspects that people say they want and, by participating, they can help craft and represent what they believe our community should look like. Residents will have a plan that they helped craft and can believe in rather than a top-down approach where they just react to what planners think that the citizens want,'' says Chiaramonte. "This effort is the most ambitious public participation process regarding long-range planning that we have ever attempted in Hillsborough County.''

Several scenarios for growth and infrastructure will be drafted and circulated for public comment later in the year.

So, how should we grow? What is important to you? Click here to learn more about Imagine 2040 and how you can get involved today.

Writer: Alexis Chamberlain
Source: Ray Chiaramonte, Hillsborough County

New Port Richey Library Launches New Community Gardening Programs

Books are no longer the only thing you can check out at your local library.

The New Port Richey Public Library launches a Seed Exchange program August 20. Residents will be able to visit the library and check out one of 168 varieties of organic, heirloom seeds, returning them when the plants bear fruit or vegetables. The seeds can be found in drawers, categorized by plant name and labeled easy, medium or advanced depending on the difficulty of growing each type of plant. The seeds can even be searched using the library’s electronic database.  

On the same day, the library is celebrating the city’s new Community Garden Project. An ordinance was passed recently that encourages the use of vacant lots for local residents to come together and grow fruits and vegetables, turning what used to be eye sores into spaces for urban renewal.

The goal of both programs is to encourage people to grow their own food and share it with others, increasing local food production and community collaboration.

"Both initiatives make people aware of ecology and encourage them to have healthier choices and produce their own food locally," says Ann Scott, associate director of the New Port Richey Library. "All of it is geared toward making our community become a more sustainable, healthier place."

The library also provides ongoing education to help those who want to grow their own gardens, even in small spaces.

The celebration begins at 11 am at the New Port Richey Library, in conjunction with the Tasty Tuesday open market which takes place every week on Tuesday, allowing local gardeners to sell organic produce in the library’s courtyard.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Susan Dillinger, Ann Scott, New Port Richey Library

New Trail Along Courtney Campbell Will Be For Bicycling, Walking

The Courtney Campbell Causeway connecting Tampa and Clearwater is undergoing resurfacing improvements and enhancements, including the addition of new pedestrian and bicycle trails physically separated from the road.

The overall $23 million project along State Road 60 is being built by the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT), FDOT received $14.6 million in federal funding, which is dedicated for walking and biking infrastructure, to build the nine-mile trail.

A 12-foot-wide, multiuse pedestrian trail on the south side of the Causeway is expected to be completed in October 2013.  The north side of the Causeway will host a five-foot sidewalk, which is scheduled to open in 2014. 

"The idea for the trail was generated by the Courtney Campbell Scenic Highway Corridor Advisory Committee," says Michelle Ogilvie of the Hillsborough Planning Commission.  "The committee worked with the local Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPO) from Hillsborough and Pinellas counties and FDOT toward producing a feasibility study for the trail concept in 2008."

The sea level Courtney Campbell Causeway received the Scenic Highway Corridor Designation in 2005. It provides a picturesque and vital link across the body of water called Old Tampa Bay. 

"It’s our brand, our identity and the trail will provide a safe place to enjoy this link," says Ogilvie. "The trail will strengthen the relationship between the counties, ecotourism will expand, and the trail will help forge a regional identity and economy."

The Courtney Campbell Trail will connect existing trail developments on both sides of the Bay, serving as a resource to the region.

Writer: Taryn Sabia
Source: Michelle Ogilvie. Hillsborough Planning Commission

Encore Rising: Downtown Tampa’s Mixed-Use Redevelopment Grows

Encore, the $425 million mixed-use redevelopment venture between the Tampa Housing Authority and the Banc of America Community Development Corporation, spans 12 city blocks of downtown Tampa, where Cass Street meets Nebraska Avenue.

The emerging neighborhood not only spans the physical distance between Ybor City and the Central Business District, it bridges generations of people while recognizing the city's rich musical history.

Four Encore residential buildings are in various stages of development. Ella, is already home to active, senior residents and nearly 100 percent occupied. Trio is designed for families with children, singles and couples. Preleasing for the mixed-income apartment homes will begin toward the end of the year. Reed, will break ground in mid-August and will be home to active seniors. Tempo, currently in design, will begin construction in early 2014 and families can choose from one, two, three or four bedroom mixed-income apartment homes.

Young professionals, families and active seniors alike will be moving into downtown Tampa’s Encore development. Of the combined 649 units, 305 are dedicated for active seniors.   

"We welcome our first residents, and look forward to having many others join them as this vibrant downtown neighborhood continues to take shape," says Senior VP Eileen Pope of Banc of America Community Development Corporation.  The project will continue over the next seven to nine years and when complete, more than 2,500 people will call Encore home.

From environmentally sustainable construction and public art to a new park and public middle school, Encore brings together Tampa's history with vibrant redevelopment, serves as a catalyst for economic investment and creates an enduring future through a multigenerational neighborhood.

Writier: Taryn Sabia
Source: Eileen Pope, Banc of America Community Development Corporation

Tampa Heights Riverfront Adds Restaurant, Park

The Tampa Heights neighborhood will soon be home to a much talked about new restaurant, Ulele and the city’s next special events destination, Waterworks Park. The historic Waterworks building and park will work together, integrate with the neighborhood and connect to the Riverwalk. 

The new Ulele Restaurant will emerge from the renovated city Water Works Building. The Gonzmart family, which owns the Columbia Restaurant, is expected to open Ulele in the winter of 2014. The name comes from the bubbling spring that flows into the Hillsborough River in Tampa Heights, and was once Tampa’s first source of drinking water. Ulule Spring is undergoing restoration as part of the Waterworks Park renovation.

The design of the park is "a modern interpretation that is respectful of the historic Waterworks Building and other park structures," explains Angela Hendershot, an architect with Rowe Architects, Inc.  Rowe Architects is part of the Design Build Team for the Waterworks Park renovation with Biltmore Construction

"The series of contemporary park structures have folded roof plains in which the geometry is a takeoff of the historic Waterworks Building roof pitch," describes Principal Rick Rowe of Rowe Architects.

The park will include play space for children, a playground, interactive water features, pavilions, docks, a kayak launch and stage and "will serve as an anchor and terminus of the Riverwalk," says Hendershot.

Special markers will draw attention to Tampa historic features, such as the Scottish Chief, a Civil War era vessel that sank at the southern end of Waterworks Park, and the Clara Frye Garden.  Clara Frye was a nurse who opened the first, free African-American Hospital in Tampa on the site now occupied by Blake High School which will be in view from the garden and Riverwalk. 

"Importantly, both projects will enhace the waterfront and you will be able to access the park and Ulele from the water," says Rowe.

Waterworks Park and Ulele will bring an important sense of history to the city and will share it with the Tampa Heights adding to the neighborhood’s character, revitalization and economic vitality.   

Writer: Taryn Sabia
Sources: Angela Hendershot and Rick Rowe, Rowe Architects

Taking Stake In Tampa's "West River" Neighborhoods

Invision Tampa, the city’s master planning effort that started in 2010, is now focusing on the "West River" neighborhoods along the HIllsborough River in downtown Tampa.  During a public workshop June 11, Mayor Bob Buckhorn announced that the Tampa Housing Authority would be a partner in this work.  "This is the beginning of the plan right here, it starts with you," the Mayor told community members. 

The total planning area is 128 acres in which approximately 80 percent is owned by various government agencies. The remaining 44 acres is owned by the Tampa Housing Authority and is occupied by the North Boulevard Apartments.  The planning team leaders, Peter Sechler of AECOM, Barry Long of Urban Design Associates, and Sandra Moore of Urban Strategies, presented notions of new development, redevelopment, improved safety, added retail amenities, an increase in the potential for jobs, and a more pedestrian friendly neighborhood environment. The overall conversation focused on the "West River" area becoming a “choice community.” 

Invision Tampa, the Center City Plan, will serve as a blue print for the next 25 years. The overarching theme is the river at the center of the city surrounded by strong neighborhoods.  "If you’re going to have a healthy downtown, you have to have healthy neighborhoods -- like spokes on a wheel," says Buckhorn. 

The inclusion of participatory public outreach in the planning and design of neighborhoods is growing in popularity across the country. It is important for citizens to share their vision for the future of their communities and to build consensus for future development in order to take stake in the city’s future.

Citizens will have an opportunity to share comments for the Center City Plan at a City Council Workshop
Thursday, June 20.  Community feedback about the "West River" will be discussed at Blake High School on July 18.  Comments and ideas for Invision Tampa can be made through the Virtual Town Hall.

Writer: Taryn Sabia
Source: Mayor Bob Buckhorn, Invision Tampa

Renovations Begin On Public Pool On Davis Islands

After nearly two years of public meetings and planning, construction has begun on renovations to Davis Islands' Roy Jenkins Pool.

The 94-year-old pool, located at 154 Columbia Dr., closed in 2008 when the pool failed to meet public health and safety guidelines, but is now slated to reopen within one year, donning a $2.5 million facelift.

The Davis Islands Civic Association authorized $500,000 to go toward renovations with the remainder coming from the City of Tampa.

“The renovation of this pool has been a community effort. We are making much-needed improvements so that the pool can be a safe and fun place for the entire Davis Islands community to enjoy,” says Mayor Bob Buckhorn.

In June 2011, information from a $50,000 Davis Islands Recreational Area and Roy Jenkins Pool Study was released, targeting areas of demand for the pool.

The study documented existing conditions and evaluated the requirements to meet Department of Health codes. Since, public meetings for Island residents have been held, gaining input and approval of funds; residents have agreed with the Davis Islands Civic Association to authorize funds to go toward the pool's improvement.

“Residents were given an opportunity to comment on study concepts and make recommendations so their voices could be heard before decisions for project improvements were made,” says Laurie Potier-Brown, project manager for the City of Tampa Parks and Recreation Department.

Pillar Construction Group will work on renovations and, once complete, the pool will include a new operating system, piping, shell, deck and façade; new restrooms are among some of the added features for visitors to enjoy.

Completion is expected by April 2014.

“Next summer, I expect there will be hundreds of kids learning to swim and playing with friends in Roy Jenkins Pool,” Buckhorn says.

Roy Jenkins Pool will be open seasonally throughout the summer.

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Source: Mayor Bob Buckhorn & Laurie Potier-Brown, City of Tampa

Riverwalk Connection Enhances Tampa's Sense Of Place

The groundbreaking of the Kennedy Plaza Riverwalk connection marks a fundamental link between downtown Tampa's recreational, residential, commercial, cultural, institutional and employment amenities -- the spaces that help define great cities.

The Riverwalk is perhaps the only vision for the city that has spanned six different mayoral administrations as a major element in Tampa's developing urban fabric. 

"This segment of The Riverwalk is much more than a connection or walkway,'' says Keith Greminger, senior planning and urban design manager at Kimley-Horn and Associates. "It is transformational, not only for The Riverwalk, but for downtown.'' 

The construction of this segment will provide a continuous walkway at the water's edge from the Florida Aquarium to the Straz Center for the Performing Arts. It is one of Tampa's most prominent and place specific public realm features. The Riverwalk is the space between the natural environment and the built environment, and gives people access to both. 

The Kennedy Plaza connection will take people close to the water. The design of the deck and structural hoops serve as "portals emphasizing the 'on the water feature' of the new segment,'' says Greminger. The hoops expand on both sides of the bridge to accentuate the gateway into downtown.

The design of the hoops not only provides for different levels of shade, but the egg-shaped hoop solves structural issues by reducing the stress from uplift found in typical pole and fabric structures. The deck and hoop combination are designed to be climate-sensitive by addressing both sun and wind. 

A next phase may bring light beams, which extend from the largest hoops, over Kennedy Boulevard serving as a threshold into downtown.

Source: Keith Greminger, Kimley-Horn Associates, Inc.
Writer: Taryn Sabia

Trammell Crow Spreads Sustainable Development Worldwide

Trammell Crow Company started its focus on sustainable design and development in 2005. Since 2006, the company has completed over 20 million square feet of LEED certified projects, with more in the pipeline.

About 85 percent of the company’s projects are LEED certified, which are 30-40 percent more efficient than traditional buildings.

"The whole idea is to leverage knowledge. To see the best of what’s going on around the country and make sure that we are constantly building on top of the best of what we see done when we take on a new development," says Robert Abberger, Senior Managing Director and Chief Sustainability Officer for Trammell Crow Company.

One such concept is the use of potable water to fuel cooling systems so the condensed water generated can then be pumped back into the water and sewer system, creating a multiplier effect.

Abberger notes that the biggest energy user in the world is commercial buildings (even more so than cars or residences), creating huge implications for the impact on human health and the environment.

Projects in Tampa Bay include the Marriott Waterside in downtown Tampa, an intermodal facility at the Port of Ybor and Posner Commons on I-4.

A flagship project is Darden's global headquarters in Orlando. Since Trammell Crow Company developed the building, the company has taken sustainability to the next level, reducing potable water consumption by more than 1 billion gallons per year throughout its 1,700 restaurants.

Abberger says his job is particularly rewarding when clients share his passion and excitement for sustainability. "The things that we’re doing have a national impact, which is then carried to international activities. It’s pretty rewarding."

The company is one of 13 local businesses honored recently with The University of Tampa's Earth Charter Sustainable Business Awards. The awards were based on three criteria: people (employee and community wellbeing), planet (environmental health) and profit (economic viability).

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Robert Abberger, Trammell Crow Company

Davis Islands Dog Beach To Close For Renovations

Davis Islands Dog Beach is undergoing a major renovation to enhance the dog-friendly playground.

City of Tampa Parks and Recreation will begin work on the $273,082 project on Monday, June 10th. When completed in December, plans call for new sand, utilities, seating, fencing and an artificial reef. The Davis Islands dry dog park will remain open during the renovations.

“Waves from passing ships have eroded the beach and shoreline at the popular dog beach, exposing rubble and making it unsafe for dogs and their owners,” says Linda Carlo, the City's superintendent at the Office of Special Events.

Just months ago, two local Davis Islands business owners, Carolyn Bigley of Davis Islands Pet Care and Jenn Fadal of Wag Natural Pet Market and Bathhouse, teamed up to create the nonprofit  Friends of Davis Islands Dog Parks -- an on-going, long-term community effort in partnership with Friends of Tampa Recreation, Inc.

Assisting City of Tampa Parks and Recreation in maintaining and improving both the Davis Islands Dog Beach and Dog Park, Friends supports the city's decision in improving the beach -- despite the six-month inconvenience of closing during renovations.

“When it reopens, it will be safer, cleaner and better than ever. This is an opportunity for a fresh start and to, hopefully, keep it maintained and looking beautiful,” the group said in a statement. “Once we realized the scope of the project, we are excited about the long-term benefits to our dog beach.”

As part of the beach renovation, the City will repair and repave the boat ramp located at the dog beach and will spruce up the shoreline by adding Florida-friendly landscaping.

Funds for the project will come from Community Investment Tax (CIT).

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Sources: Linda Carlo, City of Tampa; Carolyn Bigley and Jenn Fadal, Friends of Davis Islands Dog Parks

Making Tampa Streets More Pedestrian-Friendly

The City of Tampa is looking to give four streets a pedestrian-friendly makeover.

Funded by the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT), plans call for the installation of sidewalks and bike lanes on Palm Avenue, Bougainvillea Avenue, Willow Avenue and Cypress Street in Tampa.

The approximately $400,000 project is currently in the design phase with completion expected by summer 2013.

“This is just the beginning of how we will reshape our center city,” says Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn. “Projects like this are part of our strategy to make Tampa more pedestrian and cyclist friendly.”

In addition to this project, bike lanes will also be installed along parts of Doyle Carlton Drive and Laurel Street in Tampa. Additional on-street parking in the downtown Tampa area is also in the works.

“These improvements will make these streets safer for everyone, providing both residents and visitors more options to get around,” Buckhorn says.

The announcement of this project comes as progress continues on the InVision Tampa project, which will create a new master plan for downtown Tampa, the Nebraska Transit Corridor and surrounding neighborhoods.

Making Tampa a more attractive and accessible place for people to live, work, play and visit, a main focus for the project is to provide residents with streets that are connected and calm, encouraging neighborhood gathering spaces and pedestrian activity.

“We know that we need to make our streets more pedestrian friendly,” Buckhorn says.

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Source: Mayor Bob Buckhorn, City of Tampa

Tampa Resident Plans First Handicap-Friendly Dog Park, Seminole Heights

A local resident is working toward building Tampa's first handicap-friendly dog park.

Located on the western side of Henry and Ola Park at 502 West Henry Ave., the Seminole Heights Dog Park is slated to feature a large green space for pups to enjoy without the restraints of a leash, including water fountains, handicap-accessible cement pathways and various activities.

“Seminole Heights has a strong history and we deserve the same -- if not better -- amenities that we find in other parts of Tampa,” says Seminole Heights Dog Park Founder Mauricio Rosas.

According to Rosas, the park will become the City of Tampa's first handicap-friendly dog park and will be dedicated to service animals, as well as first responder K9s who have lost their lives in the line of duty.

Rosas, who lives with Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease and has an 8-year-old service dog named Roscoe, decided to present the Seminole Heights Dog Park idea to the City of Tampa Park and Recreations Department because he thought Seminole Heights was lacking public green spaces for both dogs and their owners to enjoy; a main focus for Rosas was that dogs needed to be able to enjoy being outside, free from leashes.

“Service dogs can pretty much go in and out of anywhere and, if they're training, have free rein in public parks,” he says. “I think other dogs need to have the same opportunity as Roscoe. This project is about the community.”

Already backed by an extensive list of local sponsors including Dallas 1 Construction and Development, Seminole Heights Foundation, Courteous Canine, Ginger Snips Beauty Salon and Spa, Health Mutt, Phoenix Glass Studio, Forever Beautiful Salon and Wine Spa and Mickey's Cafe and Bakery, Rosas is looking for 16 businesses that can raise approximately $2,500 each to cover the initial $38,000 in project costs, which is expected to see completion within one year.

A fundraiser for the park will be held on May 5th from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Courteous Canine's main campus in Lutz at 3414 Melissa Country Way. The event is expected to feature Taco Bus, a local mobile grooming truck, free dog training advice and agility courses. For more information on how to volunteer or become involved with Seminole Heights Dog Park, visit the official Facebook page.

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Source: Mauricio Rosas, Seminole Heights Dog Park

Construction Begins On Marine Exploration Center, Aquarium In Madeira Beach

The 25-year-old St. Petersburg Pier Aquarium is moving, expanding and rebranding, bringing the new Secrets of the Sea Marine Exploration Center and Aquarium concept to John's Pass Village in Madeira Beach.

Slated to open by November 2013, Secrets of the Sea will be the anchor attraction at John's Pass Village on Gulf Boulevard and 129th Avenue in Madeira Beach, featuring a broader, more technology-focused marine exploration concept.

Construction on the 13,500-square-foot, approximately $4 million facility began on April 23rd.

“The Pier Aquarium has been bursting at the seams for a long time while the public's interest in the ocean environment, cutting-edge technology and marine science continues to grow,” says Pier Aquarium President and CEO Howard Rutherford of the 2,000-square-foot St. Pete facility. “The unknown future of The Pier created an extraordinary opportunity for a bold, new approach to the Aquarium's mission.”

The Pier Aquarium will close on May 31.

Rutherford plans for Secrets of the Sea to become one of an epicenter for marine research and one of Madeira Beach's premier attractions, bringing the public together with state-of-the-art marine research, innovation and technology interactive experiences.

Various marine-related activities, aquariums, galleries and exhibits developed by the St. Petersburg Ocean Team will focus on research concepts in a fun, explanatory fashion; exhibits include Essential Estuaries, Touch Tampa Bay, Fish at Risk, Corals on Acid, Crustacean Station and Moon Jellyfish.

Local design-build team Biltmore Construction and Harvard Jolly Architects are working on the construction of the two-story structure with Lexington Design and Fabrication designing and building innovative Mystery Stations throughout the center, showcasing how several sea habitats and lifeforms are benefiting from some of the ocean's unsolved mysteries.

“We hope to create a new generation of environmental stewards,” Rutherford says.

A public/private partnership between John's Pass Village owner AEGON USA Realty Advisors, Enterprise Florida's State Small Business Credit Initiative and a local lender, the new aquarium space was recently endorsed by Madeira Beach Mayor Travis Palladeno.

Additionally, a collective hotel partnership called the Secrets Premier Hotelier Group has been instrumental in helping Secrets of the Seas achieve its capital campaign target to begin construction, agreeing to provide in excess of $100,000 over the next five years in support of the new marine attraction.

The partnership includes TradeWinds Island Resort and Guy Harvey Outpost, St. Pete Beach Sirata Beach Resort and Conference Center, Lowes Don CeSar Hotel, Postcard Inn, Dolphin Beach Resort, Bilmar Beach Resort, Grand Plaza Resort Hotel, Alden Suites, Sunset Vistas Beachfront Suites, Beachcomber Beach Resort and Hotel, Plaza Beach Resorts and Barefoot Beach Hotel.

Secrets of the Sea is expected to generate nearly 250,000 visitors annually and pump $8 million into the local economy, reaching more than 40,000 students from six different countries.

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Source: Howard Rutherford, Pier Aquarium

Business Owners Looking To Improve Dog Parks, Davis Islands

Two local Tampa Bay business owners and Davis Islands residents have teamed up to keep island dog owners and visitors happy and healthy, creating Friends of Davis Islands Dog Parks through the Keep Tampa Bay Beautiful Program.

Assisting City of Tampa Parks and Recreation in maintaining and improving both the Davis Islands Dog Beach and Dog Park, Carolyn Bigley of Davis Islands Pet Care and Jenn Fadal of Wag Natural Pet Market and Bathhouse formed the not-for-profit Friends of Davis Islands Dog Parks as an on-going, long-term community effort in partnership with Friends of Tampa Recreation, Inc.

Bigley and Fadal's new organization will work to raise funds and encourage volunteerism in an attempt to help create, maintain and improve off-leash waterfront dog parks; promote responsible pet ownership and environmental protection through community outreach and events; and create an environment where dog owners follow good “dog park etiquette.”

“Residents, veterinarians, dog trainers and behaviorists have mixed feelings about dog parks, but in my opinion, they are necessary. Most behavioral problems in dogs are largely due to a lack of exercise -- dogs cannot be leashed all of the time. They need to be able to run free and socialize and these parks give them the opportunity to do so,” Bigley says.

Adding that most dog parks end up having challenges, she says Davis Islands' public dog spaces are no different.

“Irresponsible pet owners not picking up poop is the number one issue, especially at the Dog Beach so close to the Tampa Bay,” she says. “Reports of dogs being dumped at the parks and an overall general disregard and respect for the park has made many islanders no longer use the parks, especially on the weekends.”

Bigley and Fadal are looking to change that, believing care for the parks has slowly declined over the years. Bigley says dog parks should benefit the community by providing a safe, clean area for dogs to be off the leash.

But in just the past few months, many improvements have already been made to the Davis Island Dog Park, thanks to John Allen and Earl Olson of Tampa Parks and Recreation: Fences have been repaired and painted and kiosks and benches have been fixed and are being maintained.

One of Friends' first fund-raising projects will be to create a memorial plaque wall where folks can purchase a plaque in memory of a lost pet. Plans for a memorial garden are also in the works.

“Friends started as a simple idea of making the parks cleaner, fixing up a few things and just beautifying them a bit, but its mission has become much more than that," Bigley says. "We encourage residents to get involved.”

To become a sponsor or to learn more about getting involved with Friends of Davis Islands Dog Parks, including weekly and monthly clean-ups, visit the official website and Facebook page.

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Source: Carolyn Bigley & Jenn Fadal, Friends of Davis Islands Dog Parks
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