I was born in St. Petersburg. I grew up at a time when I could ride my horse from one end of the Lake Maggiore/Salt Creek watershed to the other, from Little Bayou to Boca Ciega Bay. I have sailed single-handed up Salt Creek a few times and paddled along it too. Lake Maggiore, the Boyd Hill Nature Trail, and the tennis courts at Bartlett Park and Lakewood Country Club were regular recreation destinations in my youth.
Snippets and episodes from my childhood of everything positive and privileged Salt Creek had to offer make me aware that no matter how tatty its present condition, it can be healed. Indeed, Salt Creek suffers post traumatic stress disorder, just as many of its local residents suffer social stresses and violence. It needs nurturing and respect. Its presence of the lake and its waterways was a dynamic factor in the plans of the nationally famous landscape architect, John Nolen. In the 1920s, the City of St. Petersburg hired the notable Philadelphian to guide their growth. City Councils have considered Nolen’s proposals from time to time. It would be grand if they could follow through with his vision before another hundred years pass by.
John Nolen must have known Mill Creek. He must have known what to avoid. Recently, another landscape architect, Anne Whiston Spirn, devoted years of rehabilitative efforts to lifting Mill Creek out of its PTSD. She enlisted young residents to become ambassadors of their environment. Spirn and her students took local youth on a big explore of their hundred acre wood and cultivated their appreciation for what nature once offered their neighborhood. The key to her extraordinary success was engaging children in the process. In turn, they passed on their revelations to their schools, their family members and their neighbors. Spirn and her crew facilitated this ability to see Mill Creek through the eyes of children. Such a simple and human inclination was the foundation of Anne Whiston Spirn’s inspiring process.
The greater Salt Creek is ripe for such a project. Preliminary plans are in the making. Personal knowledge helps me know this can work. Just last weekend, I met a young boy holding up a poster at Weedon Island Preserve. He explained he wanted to help make Weedon Island a United States National Park.