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Date of Issue: May 24, 2007

FISH Preserve property acquisitions continue

Eagle eyed, OK'd
Ean Brown, an Eagle Scout with Boy Scout Troop 27, received approval to conduct a project in which he will construct decks at the FISH Preserve in Cortez. The group agreed last week to allocate $2,000 for his efforts. Islander Photo: Paul Roat

The FISH Preserve should be more preserved in the next few weeks, according to the FISH officers at their annual meeting last week.

Florida Institute of Saltwater Heritage president Allen Garner told the crowd of about 30 people present at the meeting in the historic Cortez 1912 schoolhouse that negotiations have been ongoing to purchase the remaining lots within the 96-acre preserve just east of the fishing village.

FISH acquired much of the property several years ago. There are about a dozen lots still within the confines of the property, Garner said, including three lots owned by the Lemasters. That property is on the market for more than $1 million.

"The Lemasters have requested a permit to build," Garner said, "but they'll have to build a public road, install sewage and the cost for utilities is in excess of $500,000. We're working on it."

Garner, in updates to the group, said that the channel from Star Fish Company to the FISH Preserve has been dredged to depths of 7 feet by 30 feet in width "and it was pure, white sand" that ended up in the Preserve area for future use as fill.

Good news and bad came from Roger Allen, who serves as the FISH executive director.

The Cortez Commercial Fishing Festival earlier this year raised $61,500, and there is more than $65,000 in the bank - all to the good.

Bad news is that the festival committee's average age when it began 25 years ago was 23, and today it is 61. Allen urged the FISH committee to begin to recruit younger members to carry on the cause.

Also sought by FISH vice president Richard Culbreath are oyster shells for the exhibits at the Florida Gulf Coast Maritime Museum. And Jeff Moates, the curator at the museum, said he's always looking for old pictures or other memorabilia for exhibits.

"We'd like to scan photos of any kind for the museum," Allen added. "Look in your albums."

Phase I of the Burton store is under way, Allen said, with bids let and received by Manatee County. The first phase will deal with the roof and walls of the historic structure, which was moved onto the schoolhouse site earlier this year, in an effort to secure and preserve the structure.

FISH members decided to pass on a request to allow Aquarium Quest, a not-for-profit organization that is renovating a 1958-vintage gaff-rigged sailboat, to undergo renovations on preserve property until its next meeting June 5.