DUETTE — The Duette Volunteer Fire Department operates out of a pole barn on State Road 62.
Young Duette families with children drive into nearby Hillsborough County to find a park for their kids to play.
But all that will soon be history for this town in northeast Manatee.
Mosaic, the mining company that has extracted tons of phosphate from Duette land for years to make crop nutrition products, will donate $2.8 million for a 8,785-square-foot new Duette Fire Station and adjacent 75-acre community park on a tract of land it had reclaimed.
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About 100 residents attended a groundbreaking ceremony for the two facilities Friday on Bunker Hill Loop, near State Road 62.
Guests and dignitaries — including Manatee County commissioners Carol Whitmore, Larry Bustle and John Chappie — sat under a tent while, in front of them, shined the centerpiece of the park — a 19-acre lake filled with Florida speckled perch, blue gill, largemouth bass and native plants such as pickerel weed, duck potato and fire flag.
The lake was once a 25-foot-deep pit where phosphate ore was mined.
After mining, reclamation crews reshaped the land and planted trees and vegetation, said Bo Davis, Mosaic’s vice president of phosphate operations.
Charlie Hunsicker, director of the Manatee County Natural Resources Department, attended the groundbreaking and had praise for Mosaic’s reclaimed efforts.
“I’m very pleased,” Hunsicker said. “The environment is vibrant and robust.”
The reaction from residents was happiness, excitement and pride.
“It’s about time,” said longtime Duette resident John O’Connor.
O’Connor was especially pleased because he might have been the first Duette resident to ask the mining company to donate a modern fire house and park.
Linda O’Connor said of her husband: “John was an employee of IMC, which Mosaic merged into, and he started talking to them years ago about a fire station and park.”
Ebson Parrish, captain of the Duette Fire Department, said the groundbreaking was the biggest thing to happen to Duette since around 1900, when the now-famous one classroom school was built.
“It’s finally happening,” said Duette Fire Chief Jim Leonard. “What an advantage it will be to have all of our equipment in one place. I can’t wait until it will be completed.”
Construction is expected to begin in two weeks on the fire station building, which will have access to S.R. 62, Davis said.
The fire station will have four enclosed double apparatus bays, a day room with kitchen facilities, a meeting room, several storage rooms, showers and three offices.
“We’ve also agreed to create an additional 1,287 square feet of space for future use,” Davis said.
A park pavilion is due to be finished by December with athletic fields coming in January, Davis said.
The park will consist of soccer and softball fields, picnic areas, a walking trail and playground. The lake will have an handicapped-accessible canoe launch and a dock for fishing, Davis said.
The project is expected to be finished by March.
The agreement also includes a $319,000 commitment by Mosaic to be paid over three years for operating and maintaining the park.
Betty Glassburn, a retired Manatee County employee and longtime Duette resident, remembers when she and fellow Duette residents Pat Carlton, Dave Walker and the late Bob Holbrook signed papers to create a volunteer fire department in 1982.
“It started out as a Mighty 4-H’ers of Duette project,” Glassburn said.
The official seal of the fire department still bears the green clover of 4-H Clubs.
Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 748-0411, ext. 6686.