Over the years, Fort De Soto Park has been one of my go-to places for landscape painting.

It is amazing that a place so as beautiful could have been the training ground for something as ugly as war.

But for nearly a century the five barrier keys that make up Fort De Soto Park were used for various military purposes (not to mention that it is named after a slave trader and Spanish conquistador).

The Union Army was the first with its blockade of Tampa Bay during the Civil War. Later the garrison at Mullet Key rose in response to the Spanish-American War. The Army Air Corps practiced bombing raids on Mullet Key, the main island, during World War II.

Boots and fatigues have now been replaced with bikinis, shorts and flip-flops; rifles with fishing poles; bivouac with marshmallow campfires.

Emerald waters and white-sand beaches encase 1,136 acres of cabbage palms, thickets of live oaks and other hardwoods. Sea oats, mangroves, deep pools and a host of wildlife populate the park. Natural beauty abounds.