Pandemic Project: Mother/Daughter Team Visits 150 St. Petersburg Parks
By: Amy George, St. Petersburg resident
Pandemic Boredom hit hard in July of 2020. My daughter, Rachel Crozier, and I spent one evening in full pity-party mode, whining about the monotony of the days. Even our 5:30 a.m. walks had become dull. We both knew every street and house within a two-mile radius of our homes. We were desperate for some new scenery.
Then Rachel had an inspiration: what if we tried to visit every park in St. Petersburg on foot — even if we had to drive to get there? We soon learned that there are 150+ parks in this city! But we were overly ripe for a challenge, plus it was a way to learn more about our newly adopted home.
Accompanied by Rachel’s mini-doodle, Wilson, we headed off early the next morning to Abercrombie Park, simply because it was the first park listed on the Parks and Rec website. It was too dark when we arrived to safely venture into an unknown wooded park, so we explored the Jungle Terrace neighborhood across the street until the sunlight began peeping through. It felt so refreshing to see a “new” neighborhood.
When it was finally light enough, we explored Abercrombie Park. The view from the road doesn’t even hint at what a treasure this park is. We were delighted by the new boardwalk pathways that meandered through the park, eventually leading to the intercoastal highway!
That first park visit was such a delight we couldn’t wait to see more. We also knew we had to develop a better strategy than visiting parks in alphabetical order. With the help of the St. Pete Park Finder site, we began plotting out twice-weekly routes that would give us a good 3-5 mile walk and take us by as many parks as we could see along the way.
What were our favorite parks? Whew, that’s not easy to answer! There are many waterfront parks with stunning views: the downtown parks (of course,) but also Lassing, Clam Bayou and Pinellas Point, to name just a few.
There are parks with incredible recreation centers and sports facilities. Campbell’s skateboard park comes to mind. Lake Vista had a fabulous paved path populated by at least three dozen people by 6:30 a.m.
Indian Mound Park in the south was a small park with an interesting story about the area’s native history. It was definitely a hit and worth a visit.
Before I continue, let me state that St. Pete Parks and Recs department does a stellar job maintaining these all of properties. Green areas were always mowed, playground equipment and workout stations were in good shape, and not once did we encounter an overflowing trash can. (We also admired this cool trick where they tie a knot in the trash can through the webbing to keep it from blowing out. Take a look next time you’re in a park!)
There were so many other highlights on our walks. We ran across numerous community gardens, Free Little Libraries, some cool restaurants we didn’t know about, and art and statues EVERYWHERE! We were charmed by some of the whimsical landscaping and sculptures we saw on private property. And since we were out before most people are up, it was nice to be able to appreciate the public murals and art, such as the Black Lives Matter street mural, without cars or people blocking the view.
We saved the Treasure Island Beach Park for last because – duh – it’s The Beach! Now that we are through, Rachel and I have been reflecting on how our little project saved us during a stressful and isolated time. We found a way to stay safely active, logging 148 miles on our journey. We grew closer through the intimate conversations that long walks will stimulate.
By exploring the city on foot, neighborhood by neighborhood, we have seen our community from a unique and very personal perspective. Our quest was the unexpected salve to a challenging year.