A brief history of Shell Key …

Shell Key 1970-2004

In the early 1990’s, the sandbar just south of Pass-a-Grill Beach known as Shell Island joined with it’s neighboring island to the south to form one contiguous island.

In 2000, Pinellas County acquired a lease from the State of Florida to establish Shell Key (a.k.a. Shell Island) as a Wildlife Preserve. The state lease includes all the submerged areas spanning to the Pinellas Bayway. At that time, new rules regarding alcohol and public use were enacted to comply with the requirements of the state lease.

In 2007, the plan came up for it’s scheduled review and update. After several months of public debate and input from various interests, County staff began formulating proposals to restrict camping, alcohol and pets from Shell Key.

Beginning in April, 2007 shellkey.org offered the idea of camping by permit as an alternative to the proposed camping ban.

After consulting with other campers, environmental groups and county staff, we began to receive support for our ideas from  representatives of environmental groups as well as County staff in the Environmental Lands division.  Eventually, our idea to preserve camping under a permit system was included in the 2007 SK Management Plan.

** see our original plan to find practical solutions to the challenge of balancing public use with environmental protection.

By October of 2007, County staff formally included camping by permit into the draft plan. In December, The County Commission formally approved the plan.


Questions and Comments

Article: A brief history of Shell Key …
3 comments on “A brief history of Shell Key …
  1. PMI or Pinellas Marine Institute had a youth program that brought at risk youth to that island to attempt to set them straight. That was in the 90’s. Not sure when that program ended.

  2. Ken says:

    Hi, Jack,

    What is the abandoned structure on God’s Island? What did it used to be? My friends discovered it kayaking last weekend. Also, we’d like to know more history of the islands (including what is now Ft. Desoto) if you can recommend a book or resource.


    • Jack Coletti says:

      Hi Ken

      As I understand it, that island was once privately owned and someone actually lived out there. The island was purchased by the state around 2000 – and leased to Pinellas county under the auspices of the Shell Key Management Plan. I don’t have a lot of information about the history, but I will poke around to see what I can find. Here is a publication with information about Ft. Desoto history. Hope this helps.

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