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Group tweaks plans for nature center
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DUNEDIN – The Friends of the Island Parks are looking for ways to tweak design plans for the three-story Discovery Center that is proposed for Caladesi Island.

Cindy Farris, president of the Friends of the Island Parks, said the organization is working with Deichman Construction of Palm Harbor, which was awarded a $595,000 bid to build the Discovery Center, an interpretative nature center.

“We are exploring value engineering. That is going back and looking at the plans, looking at the facility and finding ways to reduce the costs of constructing it,” Farris said.

Some of the biggest costs, which will be difficult to reduce, involve logistics, the transportation of materials and equipment and labor to the island.

“That’s the lion’s share of the cost for the facility,” she said.

Other costs include an elevator to make the facility ADA compliant, Farris said.

The Friends have been holding fundraisers and seeking grants from the state and federal governments and private foundations. The group recently received $3,000 in proceeds from the Dunedin Rotary Triathlon.

“There are things that are unique about the facility, the fact that it will really open up the island for the handicapped, because of the elevator, the ease of which they can view the topography of both Honeymoon and Caladesi islands. They may be an avenue where we can win some grants. We are exploring that,” Farris said.

A donation box is available on Caladesi. The Friends plan to start a promotional campaign to let people donate on the island or online. Hopes are that construction will begin in 2014.

“We are getting things lined up now. Probably toward the fall, you are going to see a lot more activity. More organizing, fund raisers and reaching out to more groups as well that will make us a benefactor of their fundrasier,” she said.

The cost of exhibits is expected to be about $150,000. Exhibits, such as through donor walls, are tangible and easy to promote, Farris said.

“We feel pretty confident that the exhibits will fund very quickly because that’s something where there is great name recognition,” Farris said.

The Discovery Center is expected to be built on the old observation tower site at Caladesi Island State Park. An observation deck at a height of approximately 25 feet above ground level will provide visitors a panoramic view of the island. The center will provide hands-on exhibits where park guests will be able to learn about the Caladesi’s history, habitat and wildlife

The state will oversee the construction of the project and maintain the facility.
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