Clearwater Marine Aquarium Sites Movies, Fans and A New Facility for $2 Billion Economic Impact

Pinellas County is a long-time investor in the Clearwater Marine Aquarium which had its first beginnings in 1972. In 1978 it became known as the Clearwater Marine Science Center. To date, the center is now globally known and is recognized for its research, rescue and release programs, science and marine-studies advancement.

Frank Dame, Chief Executive Officer, outlined the history and made note of Winter, who came to the center in December 2005 nearly dead from a tail-amputation by a crab trap. Dame said in 2006, guest attendance was 75,000. After the release of the movies, “Dolphin Tale and Dolphin Tale II,” attendance rose to 225,000. By 2014, the number was about 743,000, and Dame said they all dealt like “deer caught in headlights.” He also said the expertise and recognition grew globally.

The following year, guest counts rose to 800,000. In all, Dame cited a $2 billion economic impact on the area. With this came the realization of a 14-year-long dream to renovate the facility and accommodate the growth. The make-over occurred in 2020 and now the Clearwater facility is three times the size and includes new residents Rex, Rudy, Hemingway and PJ who came from Sea World.

Dame said, “It’s an amazing facility… and it will be an amazing opportunity for research, guests and the economy.” Dame said that over the next ten years the Aquarium will provide a $10 billion economic impact.

The Clearwater Marine Aquarium is in the process of creating a documentary about five white whales in its care and much more. The aquarium was present at the Board of County Commissioners as part of #purepinellas, where the best of Pinellas is highlighted every other month.

Habitat for Humanity Credits Property Owners and BOCC for Record Year

Despite the pandemic beginning in 2020, Habitat for Humanity in Pinellas County received $959,888 from property taxes to support the efforts. According to Mike Sutton, Habitat for Humaity Chief Executive Officer, Pinellas and West Pasco Counties, “Its been an interesting year year, and despite the pandemic, our partnerships set a record of 61 homes built this year.”

Sutton said it was not easy to “pull off,” and thanked the Board of County Commissioners, staff and community for the support. He added that to date the organization has provided 663 homes overall with only six going into foreclosure. “This speaks to the success of the program,” he added.

Projects underway in areas that include Danseville, Ridgecrest, “the Beach (know for drugs and prostitution he said),” and also “the Corner” were not generally considered great investments by some. Sutton said that this was particularly true of the Ridgecrest area, where he replied to those questioning, “Bring it on.”

Commissioner Janet (¥¥) noted the destruction of the “no-name storm some years back” that wiped out Ridgecrest. She asked about what she considered a “real, living, moving story about how doing this changes lives and changes opportunities for the little ones who are growing up.”

“I think what’s great about both Danesville and Ridgecrest, which make up the greater Ridgecrest area, is that a majority of the owners are generational with many generations of families and not renters. We’ve been able to compliment history, what’s already there, and at the same time we also got to know the community… making it important that at least 50 percent of the homes were for existing Ridgecrest citizens because we really wanted to stay true to the history and demographics of the community as well.”

In the next year, this Habitat for Humanity is expected to see an increase in budget to $1.2 million from property taxes.

Lost Art of the Handshake Turns to the Foot-shake

The handshake is widely believed in history to have begun as a gesture of peace (displaying no weapon) or as a symbolic gesture of a promise, as well as a way to introduce oneself in our times.

According to Wikipedia, the World Health Organization and the CDC and other online sources, handshakes are known to spread a number of microbial pathogens. Certain diseases like scabies which is transmitted skin to skin, and other highly contagious diseases where hand washing is essential but not always reliable is compromising the manners of handshakes.

Rise of The Foot-shake

Sources site the 2009 H1N1 pandemic as a noticeable change in habits. The dean of medicine at the University of Calgary, Tomas Feasby, seems to be one of the first to suggest that fist bumps may be a “nice replacement of the handshake” in an effort to prevent transmission of the virus.

According to reports, a 2010 study points to a UCLA study wherein “only about 40 percent of doctors and other health care providers complied with hand hygiene rules in hospitals.”

A doctor at UCLA hospital, Mark Sklansky, decided to test “a handshake-free zone.” However, UCLA did not allow the ban outright, but they rather suggested: fist bumping, smiling, bowing, waving, and non-contact Namaste gestures similar to hands over heart or at heart-center, or perhaps sign language is the best way to move forward and maintain manners.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the fall of the handshake became blatantly obvious. Cultures in many countries whether by law or social adaptations are employing even more alternatives like the elbow bump, the and foot tapping (“Wuhan Shake”) or non-contact actions for social distancing purposes.

The Intellegencer sited in March of 2020, that the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, told everyone in the room she was planning to be very rude to them. “I’m not going to shake anyone’s hand tonight,” she said.

According to The Intellegencer article handshaking, like face-touching, is taking a hit amid the global panademic. Countries and organizations are promoting the “foot- shake” which also appears to have first grown to popularity in China during Covid-19.

Foot-shaking or popularly called the “Wuhan Shake,” is where two people meet and rub shoes. Apparently rubbing dirty shoes together won’t harm and is polite in 2021.

Where Do All the Boxes Go?

Plans for Port of Tampa to be part of the solution.

Barbara Smith wrote in the Business Insider in August that cardboard is the “beige gold,” and globally criminals are making millions as e-commerce booms. This and other changes are strangling recycling systems and the profits of companies and local authorities. Recycling has not escaped the rapid shifts brought on all sectors by 2020.

As consumers unpack box after box, tucked inside another box surrounded by styrofoam, different problems arise in addition to the illegal trade that is skyrocketing.

The recycling systems have not and can not keep up, especially after Covid-19 shut down many operations for sometime. The shut-down of facilities occurred as management regrouped and armed staff with Personal Protection Equipment and new protocols.

Meanwhile the massive demand shifted from “clean,” commercial cardboard and paper sources, to a “dirty,” residential overload of waste, cardboard and a mix of both. Much of the waste had to burned. In July, for example, Hillsborough and Pasco counties burned approximately 20,000 tons of waste the recycling systems could not handle.

Problems and Solutions for Residential Recycling

Ninety percent of all products in the U.S. are shipped in corrugated cardboard boxes. Commercially, these boxes are typically used once and recycled. Residential trends show single-use boxes are often reused for storage and become contaminated. Other bad habits have led the recycling industry to ask that residents stick to the basics. Now as we approach 2021, these are increasingly important to meet recycling goals.

Florida has struggled to keep up with the goals set in 2008 by the Florida Legislature’s Energy, Climate Change Economic Security Act which established a statewide, weight-based recycling goal of 75 percent by 2020. The last time the state met the “staggered,” projected goals set by the act was in 2014. Here are a few suggestions to help meet increasing demands:

  • Stop “wishcycling,” a term described by Sandy Skolochenko for those who put something in a recycling bin without checking whether it is actually recyclable. Skolochenko is a Business Development Specialist with the Department of Environmental Quality (DEACS). In an article for Coastal Review published this month, Skolochenko highlights the system overflow of home garbage and emphasizes not to throw masks and gloves away in recycling bins.
  • Understand the oil and other residue left on simple things like a pizza box gum up the system. Plastic bags are notably at the top of the “do not recycle” list. The advice for recycling plastic bags is to return them to the stores. Remember not to recycle masks and gloves but do properly dispense of them in waste bins.
  • Stick to the basics of residential recycling: plastic bottles, tubs, jugs and jars, glass bottles, metal cans, paper and cardboard. Again, the emphasis is on basic and clean recycling to help get through this particularly industrial, commercial and residential recycling shift.

Tampa Is Close to Striking Beige Gold

Seeds for a blossoming partnership have been planted at the Port of Tampa for a new cardboard and paper recycling plant. The Tampa site is one of only two in North America of its kind. The reported $180 million facility is the product of New Jersey-based Kamine Development Corporation (KDC which creates sustainability infrastructure) and Celadon, a technology company. The deal does include almost 100 jobs.

Wade Elliott, Vice President of Business Development Port of Tampa told The Free Press, “This is a great project for our region. The proposed facility will enhance sustainability and benefit the port regarding exports of cargo.”

As step one in the process, the Hillsborough County Commissioners held a public hearing in October approving the plans thus far. The vote is going to the Tampa City Council today. Check back for an in-depth feature from The Free Press.

Local Recycling Information and Resources

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Navigating the Way Out

Tampa Bay — (previously published May 2020; much is now open but not cruising).

Recommendations from around the country and state include the following standard practices we can expect to see and maintain.


In Hillsborough County wearing face masks is strongly encouraged but not mandated in high-traffic areas particularly where public distancing is not possible. Proper social distancing is essential.  If you’re engaging in essential services and businesses, masks are recommended.  For details on mask usage, see Hillsborough County’s Emergency Policy Group’s latest update.

Air Travel

Readers may hear that arrival times at airports require up to four hours prior to your flight. In actuality because the airports are at new lows for travel, Tampa International is still requiring two-hour arrival times prior to your flight.  Other area airports report similar lows in travel from April’s data. 

You can expect all high-contact areas to be decontaminated, only McDonald’s and one coffee shop are open at Tampa International, and you must wear a mask at all times in the airport and plane.  Also airlines have suspended on-board flight services which includes all drinks, water, alcohol, food and snacks.

Vacations Rentals

Tickets were handed out today in Holmes Beach to visitors staying in a vacation rental.  While rentals are listed online, Florida has not yet given clearance and violators are being ticketed. 


Here are some of the recommended changes by the National Association of Restaurants for business opening during Phase One and beyond. 

There will be continued move towards no contact with high-contact items such as the leather billfold that holds the tab.  Salt and pepper shakers and condiments will be disposable, as well as menus, disposable silverware and plates.  

Outdoor seating is being added and ventilation requirements are changing. Restaurants will be amping up automation and offering more high-tech applications for POS services. Buffet-style offerings are out for now.

From witnessing events and businesses open in the tri-county area, readers can expect everything to be continually sanitized with social distancing and 25 percent capacity indoors and expanded outdoor seating, masks and screenings.

Patrons may call or visit restaurant websites for more information about each restaurant’s current operating hours and common practices.  Diners interviewed all have witnessed good service and continuous sanitizing in place, and common dining cutlery, dishes and menus are being used.  Space is limited.

Grocery Stores

Grocery stores will continue to operate at the minimum required of patrons, continuous sanitizing, and masks can be worn by choice. If you are ill it is advised that you do stay home. Masks are optional but required for employees.  One resident reaching for a grocery cart recently spoke of being grabbed around the arm by a man who yelled at her, “Where’s your mask?” 

Public Transportation

Nationally, the advice about public transportation is to not use it unless absolutely necessary. When using buses and trains, it’s advisable to wear a mask and gloves if you feel you cannot properly distance yourself from others and high-contact areas.  

Coming will be an increas ridership in taxi cabs and services such as Uber and Lyft is expected with changes including the use of plastic shields in vehicles with protocols for disinfecting the vehicles and mask recommendations plus screenings.


Royal Caribbean extended its hold on cruising through June 11th with hopes to resume on a limited scale after while Carnival announced it will begin offering travel in August. For more information about the cruise industry, see

Beaches and Local Parks

Pinellas county offers a dashboard online service to reserve parking spots and space at the beaches. See the website at  Since opening on May 4th, the beaches continue to be widely popular with beach goers maintaining social distance. Beaches do quickly reach capacity and will be closed to additional traffic.  As the area looks forward to honoring Memorial Day, you can expect to see much busier roads and traffic to all the beach access areas. 

In Apollo Beach, the public park on the Bay remains closed as is the dog park and other park facilities on Gulf and Sea Blvd.  At Simmons Park in Ruskin, only the boat ramp is available with hours 8 am – 6:30 pm. 

The beach at Little Harbor remains closed and patrolled.


Stores are opening to 25 percent occupancy including Pet Supermarket in Sun City Center where hand sanitizer is mandatory at the door, and plastic shields are up at the registers. You can expect to see similar practices at the larger retail stores.