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» 2009 » August
Last Updated: August 24, 2009
Labor Day is just around the corner.
Given that the Bureau of Labor Statistics is celebrating its 125th anniversary in 2009, it seems appropriate, with this post, to recognize Pinellas County for its commitment to preserving our area’s natural beauty and for having a vision for the future. This achievement is the direct result of the dedication and hard work of many people-from residents to local, state, and federal government officials.
In recognition of Labor Day, it is fitting to offer a tip of the hat to Mother Nature, for the natural beauty she bestowed upon our area, and to Pinellas County officials for adopting a “Gateway to the Future” plan.
Here are a some highlights about Pinellas County worth celebrating . . .
Pinellas County was designated as the first “Green County” in Florida in 2007. (Source: Florida Green Building Coalition).
Two Pinellas County beaches have been named the #1 beach in the continental US, including Ft. De Soto County Park (North Beach) in 2005 and Caladesi Island State Park in 2008.
According to Pinellas County’s official website, future plans call for supporting economic and employment potential with County projects and plans, a recreational plan, an intermodal transportation hub, international airport master plan update, and plans for other County projects.
With regard to the environment, County officials, working in conjunction with community leaders, volunteer groups, residents, and representatives from every level of government, are committed to natural resource protection and public use opportunities for parks and waterways throughout Pinellas County.
Historical preservation is another priority. Karen Williams Seel, currently a member of the Pinellas County Board of Commissioners, chairs the Historic Preservation Advisory Board, in a post on the County’s website, says:
Pinellas County enjoys a rich and diverse culture and historic past. The historical, cultural and aesthetic heritage is among its most valued assets. Few urban areas today boast such unique perspectives of the past. Because of widespread growth and redevelopment in recent years, it is critical to the future of our County that we preserve and maintain significant elements of its history.
With this in mind, the Board of County Commissioners (BCC) took the initiative to establish a countywide policy to address historical protection and redevelopment issues among local communities. In June 2005, the BCC by resolution created the Historic Preservation Task Force (HPTF) to develop a historic preservation plan inclusive of all jurisdictions . . .
. . . Now established as the Historic Preservation Advisory Board, members look forward to addressing future objectives. Such objectives include:
Establishing and maintaining a County Register of Historic Places;
Developing and promoting preservation regulations and programs,
Providing educational outreach and technical assistance (e.g. “Tool Box Kits” on historic preservation) to interested groups and citizens;
Exploring financial incentives to preserve historic resources;
Enhancing possible grant opportunities through participation in the Florida Certified Local Governments (CLG) Program;
Integrating and maintaining consistent historic preservation policy in Pinellas County planning processes;
And, researching, evaluating, and developing an ordinance to restrict demolition of significant historic resources.
I am honored to serve as Chair of the Advisory Board and to be a part of perpetuating the culture and history of our County into future generations. The Advisory Board welcomes input from all citizens and the perspectives of those who can continue to enhance the rich heritage of Pinellas County.
The future of Pinellas County and our area’s breathtaking natural beauty are very bright, indeed!
Thinking about Labor Day . . . it takes time and energy to explore the many parks, beaches, waterways, nature trails, and historic landmarks that exist in Pinellas County.
But it’s worth the effort and is the best kind of work–because it’s fun!
I wish everyone a Happy Labor Day!
Feeling proud (and lucky) to live . . . in Paradise Found!
PHOTO CREDIT: Photos appearing in this post are courtesy of Pinellas County.
Last Updated: August 21, 2009
I am telling you the absolute truth when I say this: When I was a kid, downtown St. Petersburg was dead at night. Not just slow. Empty.
When I hit 16 and got my little used Karman Ghia convertible, I did not drive downtown at night, except during Christmas season. For a couple of weeks in mid December, stores were open at night and there were actually people there. But, the rest of the year, downtown was still empty.
A few years later, I rented a big old seven bedroom house on the corner of 4th Street South and 6th Avenue South, and shared the house with several other high income folks such as myself. Yes, it’s true, I lived on Chicken Pot Pies for a time there. Anyway, my cheap entertainment was my bicycle, and I loved to ride down by the water, over into Roser Park, and north into downtown. But I had downtown to myself – streets, sidewalks, everything. Empty and desolate.
Not so in 2009! There are always things going on downtown. Great restaurants, concerts of every imaginable genre and for all ages, live theater, and more. And on the first Friday of each month, the city closes off part of Central Avenue and downtown hosts the First Friday Get Downtown Street Party! It starts before dark and runs ’til 2 AM. Although it was raining early on Friday night, August 7th, and I wondered if it would even happen, the rains quit by about 7:30 and it was actually pretty cool out for a hot August night. My wife and I drove downtown, parked in front of Starbucks, and walked a block to the party. There were certainly fewer people attending than usual, likely because it had been raining. But, still, they numbered in the hundreds, and everyone seemed to be having fun.As we approached the stage set up in the middle of Central Avenue, we heard some Santana riffs drifting through the air. As we got closer, the music sounded better and better. It was coming from Suzette Jennings and the Moodswingz, a local band with a wide-ranging repertoire. They covered contemporary jazz, some soul, some R&B, and even a very nice rendition of “Ode to Billie Joe”. Plenty of people focused intently on the band, including lots of folks who had brought chairs with them and set them up in front of the stage. It’s worth mentioning that this was a crowd of all ages, from Gen Y/Millennials to Gen Xers to Boomers, and everybody was having a great time. We saw friends running into one another, couples dancing, women dressed to kill, maybe hoping for something fun to happen, guys dressed as guys dress, maybe hoping for a miracle…
There were several bars and restaurants open in the area, but there’s also beer and wine sold on the street, with profits going to local charities. You can do a little drinking and feel good about it, too! So, next time it’s the first Friday night of the month and you’re wondering how you’re going to spend your evening, why not Get Downtown and hit the First Friday party? It’s a fun diversion and a nice change from everyday routine.
Last Updated: August 17, 2009
At the southernmost tip of Pinellas County, white as sugar sandy beaches meld with Old Florida style in the historic communities of Pass-A-Grille and Tierra Verde.
Beauty and history coincide in these beachfront neighborhoods. Beaches, piers, shops, and museums, are only a few sandy footsteps away from each other.
Dust the sand off your feet, slip on your flip flops, and take a leisurely stroll along Pass-A-Grille’s Historic 8th Avenue District. Here, you can enjoy a meal at the water’s edge at the (aptly-named) Seahorse Restaurant, renown for its campy atmosphere, Old Florida postcards and memorabilia, and tranquil open water view. There’s indoor and outdoor patio seating, an array of menu items for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and the service is oh so good.
From here, keep cruising to check out Pass-A-Grille’s quaint and delightful shops, which are full of reasonably-price Floridiana, beachwear, custom-made jewelry and artwork, and much more!
Stop along the way for coffee or ice cream at any one of the many beachfront purveyors. Residents like to say that we live on “Island Time.” With this in mind, take your time . . . relax! Slip into a comfy and brightly-colored Adirondack chair to enjoy some people or bird watching, and then skip across the street to Seaside Grille. It’s the perfect place to visit when needing to replenish your supply of beach accessories, food, and chilly libations.
After a swim, some sandcastle building, shell collecting, dolphin watching, or a game of beach volleyball, beat a path to the Hurricane Restaurant. The Victorian-style architecture of this place is a delight. Climb (there’s an elevator for the less adventurous) to the rooftop to visit the crow’s nest bar. The views over the Gulf of Mexico from this perch are breathtakingly beautiful-especially at sunset! The Hurricane is a fun place to enjoy an icy beverage or fresh fish sandwich. And no visit would be complete without indulging in a tangy slice of scrumptious Key Lime Pie.
Food and shopping aside, Pass-A-Grille is home to many historical markers, historic Don CeSar Hotel, the Sunset Bell, and the Gulf Beaches Historical Museum.
Located at 115 10th Avenue in St. Pete Beach, FL, the Gulf Beaches Historical Museum is situated in the first church that was ever built on the barrier islands of Pinellas County.
According to the Museum’s website, exhibits trace the history of the County’s barrier islands through photographs, news clippings, and artifacts, dating from the 1500s through modern times. The Museum collects artifacts and archival material to help preserve the cultural history of the islands. Many of Pass-A-Grille’s pioneer families and long-time residents assist in this endeavor. Special educational tours can be arranged for clubs, schools, churches, and civic organizations. Historical lectures, changing exhibits, fundraising events, and children’s activities round out the Museum’s calendar of events.
According to local history, lore, and legend, the last group of Native Americans to settle in Pinellas County were the Tocobagas around 1000-1700 A.D. The area was visited by Europeans in 1528, when Spanish explorer, Panfilo de Narvaez, anchored off Pass-A-Grille Pass. Afterwards, the area was used as a camp ground for fisherman to obtain freshwater and to grill their catch. It is thought that Pass-A-Grille derives its name from the French, Paees and Grilleare.
In 1857, John Gomez, who identified himself as the “last of the pirates,” began bringing excursionists here from Tampa, which gave the area the distinction of possibly being the oldest resort on Central Florida’s West Coast.
The town of Pass-A-Grille Beach was incorporated into the City of St Petersburg Beach in 1857 and in 1989 a section of Pass-A-Grille was declared a National Historic District.
Neighboring Tierra Verde, an island community joined to the southern tip of Pinellas County by a two-lane drawbridge, is home to one of the nation’s consistently top-rated beaches–North Beach at Ft. De Soto Park. The tiny enclave is also home to the Ft. De Soto Park Museum and serves as a pick-up and drop-off location for ferry rides, offering a historical tour of nearby Egmont Key and the Egmont Key Lighthouse.
The Ft. De Soto Park Museum building is an authentic replica of a structure from the Spanish-American War ear. The Park boasts self-guided nature trails and has a number of war-related relics, including cannons and battle reinforcement areas. Parts of the original fort encampment are open to the general public.
So, here we are, having enjoyed a glorious sunrise, beach fun, good food, and some local history, legend, and lore. As the sun slowing sets in a profusion of golden hues, it is time to relax and ring the Sunset Bell on Pass-A-Grille Beach.
What a way to end another day . . . in Paradise Found!
Photography provided courtesy of Pinellas County Communications Department.
Pass-a-Grille Bell by Lila. Photo gallery online at picasaweb.google.com
Last Updated: August 7, 2009
When the Saturday Morning Market first opened in November of 2002, it was a great feeling for those who have lived in St. Petersburg for a long time. We’ve seen lots of other cities and towns with Saturday Morning Markets, and we’d had a few that tried to get going here in St. Petersburg, but this one felt different, somehow. I love it when the fall weather arrives – humidity goes away, cooler temperatures sneak in, and you can go hang out downtown at the Market and run into friends, hear good music, buy wonderful fresh produce, handcrafted items, plants, and, especially, wonderful, sumptious food! It’s just such a treat!
But, alas, every year, as spring comes to an end and the summer sun gets hotter, the market has shut down, gone into a summer hibernation until Fall. But this year, for the first time, somebody got a little bit creative and all of the powers that be were flexible and there’s a whole new thing going on – the Saturday Summer Market! It’s moved just a couple of blocks away from it’s normal home – the summer version is being held in the Mahaffey Theater parking garage.
If that sounds dismal, believe me, it’s not. This garage has very high ceilings, so there’s no sense of being closed in. It’s fully open on the sides and at each end, so there’s plenty of light and, a couple of Saturdays ago, when my wife and I went down there, the breeze was beautiful – we walked around for an hour and a half and did not even get a bit warm. Also, since the whole thing is undercover and shielded from the sun, I did not have to apply one speck of suncreen, which makes me very happy.
There are still lots of vendors, great food and beverages, handcrafted soaps and candles and craftwork, plenty of fresh, delicious produce, great barbeque, lots of varieties of other foods for breakfast or lunch, desserts, music, and everything else you’d hope for in a morning market. Parking is plentiful and just a one minute walk away, and it only costs a buck, so no need to bring quarters for meters or for watching the time.
If you haven’t been down to check it out, you ought to – it’s a nice way to spend Saturday morning – and a great way to go home with some very nicely priced treasures!
Last Updated: August 2, 2009
August has arrived and we have entered the season referred to as “The Dog Days of Summer.” Although the term has more to do with astronomy (and the “Dog Star,” Sirius), here in the South Gulf Beaches area and throughout Pinellas County, dogs, and pets of all kinds, reign supreme at this time of year.
Canines, companioned by human friends, have the luxury of carefree romping at County parks and beaches designated as being “pet friendly.”
The Dog Park and Beach at Ft. De Soto Park in Tierra Verde is one example.
“Paw Playground” at Ft. De Soto Park offers spacious fenced areas for large and small dogs, with watering and shower stations, and funny little hydrants painted to look like people. There are park benches situated in the shade of leafy trees for people and pets to enjoy.
There’s always something to see and smile at. On my last visit, I saw an Irish Setter running to catch a flying disc, three long-eared, slow-moving Bassett Hounds, a ball-chasing Spaniel, a lap-hugging Yorkie, a giant black Schnauzer, a merry mixed breed rolling in the grass, and my own shelter-adopted miniature Dachshund, who sat in the shade of my shadow.
There are dogs of every size and color, some with spots, some with long coats, short coats, or wire-haired coats. As far as amenities go, the Dog Park provides dispensers with bags for disposing of “presents.” The park is clean and open to the public (donations are accepted).
The Dog Beach is a short, sandy trail walk from the Dog Park. Situated on a sunny strip of white sand beach along the open waters of Tampa Bay, it affords beautiful views of open water, wildflowers in bloom, palm trees, and nearby Bay Pier. Bring a beach umbrella and a lawn chair or beach towel, or sit on one of the conveniently-located park benches near the water’s edge and enjoy the free entertainment.
The dogs put on quite a show! They swim, fetch sticks and tennis balls, and busily hustle and sniff their way along the shoreline. There’s lots of running, playing, some digging in the sand, and plenty of tail wagging.
Even though the season is named for the Dog Star, Sirius, it’s the perfect time of year for our feline friends, too! The South Gulf Beaches area of Pinellas County is home to numerous pet boutiques, pet day care centers and spas, groomers, pet sitters, veterinarians, and pet-oriented retail stores. Furry feline friends can be pampered luxuriously (and, really, don’t they demand this attention and love it?).
Pinellas County is a pet-friendly community. Dogs , by ordinance, are welcomed in many public places, including some area restaurants.
What’s that you say? You don’t have a four-legged friend? Have no fear . . .
. . . SPCA Tampa Bay is here!
The shelter recently dedicated its beautiful, new Edward D. Foreman Adoption Center and Gift Boutique. SPCA Tampa Bay offers cats and dogs, kittens and puppies (and bunnies and so on . . .) for adoption. They have a farm animal sanctuary, provide pet-related training and seminars, and offer spay and neutering services.
At SPCA Tampa Bay, you can adopt a furry friend (more correctly, a pet in need of adoption will surely win your heart and adopt you). Once the adoption process is complete, visit SPCA Tampa Bay’s Gift Boutique to acquire the accoutrements needed to pamper your new family member and introduce him/her to your home.
Think of it this way . . . SPCA Tampa Bay has adoptable pets for every season!
Don’t squander “The Dog Days of Summer.” With or without a pet, visit a dog park or beach in Pinellas County today!
You’ll be entertained!
It’s all part of another fun day . . . in Paradise Found.
Thanks for visiting!
Photos taken by Connie Langhorst during the Dog Days of Summer at Ft. De Soto Park Paw Playground.
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- Greek Wine and Food Tasting to benefit All Children’s Hospital and the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society
- Time is running out to stand up for sensible mortgage rules
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