Fortress at Fort De Soto Park reopens
The fort at Fort De Soto Park is open, after 10 months of renovation that cost more than $1 million. The fort reopened on July 27, after being closed in October so workers could focus on repairing clogged air vents and collapsed drainage systems. Also added were new native, drought-resistant dune plants that restore the fort to its original camouflaged appearance, according to a park service news release. Crews also patched cracks, pressure cleaned walkways and installed a ramp that makes the fort compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. The ramp leads to the fort's upper observation areas on the south end. New stairs were built on the north end. The restoration was paid for by a $500,000 grant from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, a $246,000 grant from Save America's Treasures, which is out of the National Parks Service and $354,000 from the Penny for Pinellas.The largest park in the county's park system, Fort De Soto Park is on 1,136 acres covering five interconnected islands. The fort is a key part of the area's history. Named after the Spanish explorer Hernando De Soto in 1900, the structure was built to defend the mouth of Tampa Bay during the Spanish-American War. Tampa was the port of embarkation for U.S. troops and supplies going to the Caribbean war zones. Fort De Soto never saw any battles and its weapons on the two islands were never fired in combat.