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Tribute to an era is subject of variance hearing

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Gibsonton – Forcibly altered by changing times, the little acreage where the historic Giant’s Fishing Camp once beckoned weary travelers coming home or passing through is proceeding to welcome this community’s 21st century visitors.

Now owned by phosphate giant Mosaic, the site built into a tourist court and fishing camp that was cutting edge in its day by another giant, eight-foot-four Aurelio “Al” Tomaini and his diminutive wife, Jeanie, is shaping up as a tribute to them and their era through cooperative efforts by the mining/manufacturing company and Concerned Citizens of Gibsonton (CCG).

The 3.18 acres have been enclosed with wrought iron fencing, the last of the small white cabins has been preserved, a marble replica of Al Tomaini’s size 22 boot is set for mounting on a pedestal, a memorial plaque is in the works and so is the large stucco “Welcome to Gibsonton” signage, say spokespersons for both groups. Plus, the required legal moves are underway.



Once the temporary home-away-from-home for thousands of travelers along U.S. Hwy. 41 — for decades a primary route connecting north and south Florida — the last of the Giant’s Camp cabins has been positioned behind wrought iron fencing at the site of the famed tourist court in Gibsonton. The site is being shaped into a historic memorial honoring Al and Jeanie Tomaini for their roles in the community’s lore through a cooperative effort by Mosaic and local citizens. A dedication of the site is expected later in the year.
Photo courtesy Russell Schweiss/Mosaic

CCG currently is seeking a variance from county authorities that would reduce the setback to 25 feet from the 50 feet normally required for accessory structures such as the memorial complex. A hearing on the petition, originally scheduled for March 26, has been reset for April 23, according to Dennis Kline, principal planner in Hillsborough’s Planning and Growth Management Department.

In addition, Mosaic is planning for safety reasons to seek permanent closure of Lula Street which stretches for a short distance behind or west of the historic monument site. There are no houses on Lula and residents in the area have full access from Alice Street south of the site, Russell Schweiss, Mosaic spokesman, noted this week. The road closure application is being drafted for submission to the county, Schweiss added.

A major point of concern has been the driveway at the southern foot of the Alafia River bridge which gave access to the Giant’s Camp restaurant when it was operating before the building’s razing, Schweiss said. The driveway also leads to Lula Street. Vehicles attempting to exit the driveway onto southbound U.S. 41 often are not seen by drivers coming south over the bridge and the situation has posed danger for both, the spokesman added.

The driveway also has provided access to Mosaic’s Fiddler’s Cove, a nature preserve and ecological education center at the mouth of the Alafia River which is opened periodically to fourth graders from area schools. It is planned that visiting school busses in the future will reach the preserve via Alice Street and a gate on Lula, Schweiss said.


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