DUNEDIN — Within several months, visitors to Caladesi Island will be able to have a birds-eye view of the 2,436-acre state park.
The expected date for completion of the Caladesi Island Discovery Center is in the winter of this year at a cost of about $1.6 million. The Friends of the Island Park, a citizen organization, has contributed about $900,000.
Construction crews continue to make progress on the Discovery Center, said Alexandra Kuchta, press secretary for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.
The elevator is being constructed, which will ensure all visitors are able to access and and enjoy the observation tower, she said.
The center will be an open-air facility at the old observation tower site at Caladesi Island State Park. The new observation deck at a height of about 25 feet will provide a panoramic view of the undeveloped barrier island. The center will provide hands-on exhibits.
"This has been an ongoing project," said George Skalkeas, president of the Friends of the Island Park. "We are confident this definitely is the end of the line here."
He believes that center will bring more people to Caladesi Island.
'We certainly hope it draws attention. We want people to visit it and learn some things from it," Skalkeas said.
The final say on what exhibits are going to be at Discovery Center is up to the DEP, he said.
He said some of the possible exhibits being discussed is a display focusing on the Tocobaga Indians, the first explorers to the island.
"There may be another piece that would talk about the geology of the island and what makes it a barrier island and what a barrier island does," Skalkeas said.
"Of course the birds, the flora and the fauna, if you will. What kind of birds go there, why do they go there and how long do they stay there and other animals that are there," he said.
In 2011 the Friends, a 600-member organization, started a fundraising campaign over the years and designated proceeds from events such as Island Earth Days for the Discovery Center.
Though construction is fully funded, the Friends are seeking funds for the interpretative displays. Checks may be sent to Friends of the Island Parks Inc., 1 Causeway Blvd., Dunedin, FL 34698.
The contractor for the project is Midcoast Construction Enterprises LLC, based in Tarpon Springs.
Caladesi Island is open 8 a.m. until sundown yearly. A ferry service to the island operates from Honeymoon Island State Park.
Activities allowed include canoeing, kayaking, picnicking, fishing, hiking and swimming.
The park has a marina with floating docks with electric service and water hookups. A snack bar and gifts shop is located in the marina.