Everyone’s invited to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Pinellas Trail Saturday, Dec. 5, 10 a.m. at John Taylor Park, where the trail opened Dec. 1, 1990 with a six-mile segment connecting to Seminole Park.
Today, Pinellas Trail is a 47-mile long linear park extending from St. Petersburg to Tarpon Springs. Officials estimate that more than 90,000 residents and guests use the multi-modal transportation facility each month.
Good comes from tragedy
The opening of the trail in 1990 was the culmination of years of work by former Indian Rocks Beach Commissioner Bert Valery Jr. His 17-year-old son died in 1983 when a car hit him on the Belleair Beach Causeway while he was riding his bicycle home from his part-time job. Valery then took it upon himself to do what he could to make a safe place for bicyclists and pedestrians to travel throughout Pinellas County.
Valery helped form the Pinellas County Metropolitan Planning Organizations Bicycle Advisory Committee, which collaborated with the Pedestrian Safety Committee to work on improving safety for people riding bikes, walking and jogging.
For 22 years, a group of people better known for the work they do to keep the county safe has devoted itself to making sure people in need have a merry Christmas.
Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office Ride and Run with the Stars is Saturday, Dec. 5, at Fort De Soto Park, 3500 Pinellas Bayway S. in Tierra Verde. The family-friendly event features a 25-mile bike ride, 10K family ride, 5K certified race, 1-mile fun walk/skate, a silent auction, kid’s activities and a visit from Santa, Mrs. Claus and an elf. Food, water and soda will be available while supplies last.
Proceeds go to the Christmas Sharing Project, which provides food, clothing and toys for crime victims, children and families that have been nominated by members of the Sheriff’s Office.
LARGO - One of the county’s most beloved holiday events is coming to the Florida Botanical Gardens Friday, Nov. 27. The annual light display continues through Thursday, Dec. 31.
Stroll along paths that meander through a 35-acre garden illuminated with thousands of LED lights from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. Admission is a $4 donation with children under age 12 admitted free.
More than 66,000 visitors came through one of three entrances at the 2014 Holiday Lights in the Gardens, according to a media release from Pinellas County Communications. The main draw: more than 750,000 environmentally friendly LED and laser lights, which “transform the gardens into a holiday wonderland filled with favorite seasonal and Florida-style displays,” the release continues.
Workers carefully wrap strands of lights around leaves and branches of plants, palms and trees to create a magical scene unique to the gardens. Themed light displays include animated butterflies and hummingbirds, plus flamingos, turtles, eagles, herons, alligators, dolphins, owls, a parrot, a pelican and a swan. An animated train display with more than 1,250 LED lights adds to the festive scene.
Co-stars to the lights are flowers, roses, poinsettias, palms, tropical foliage and a variety of trees all decked out in holiday splendor.
MADEIRA BEACH - City Manager Shane Crawford is a dog lover. His Shih Tzu “M.J.” is a regular and beloved visitor at Madeira Beach City Hall.
What Crawford, and others in the city, don’t love is the dog poop left behind by careless owners, during walks and romps with their pets. Complaints about dog waste on streets, sidewalks, in parks and other frequently travelled areas has prompted a crackdown by the city, with stiff fines imposed on violators.
Crawford said the complaints have come from throughout the city, but especially the Bay Pointe area.
To assist dog owners in cleaning up after their pets, the city is installing nearly 50 “dog waste stations” dispensing plastic bags at various locations around the city.
The effort is part of the city’s “Clean Up Madeira Beach” campaign that also includes daily raking of the beach, which previously got attention once a week, and cleaning of the waterways and other areas.
Vice Mayor Elaine Poe added funding of the dog stations to the budget. She said, “a lot of residents were complaining about dogs using their yards and the owners not cleaning up.”
In addition to the mess created, dog waste contains e-coli bacteria, which washes into the sewers and pollutes the waterways,” Poe said.
LARGO - At the end of a dead end street on a vacant lot in Largo, firefighters from Largo, Seminole and Pinellas Park spent all day Nov. 13 setting fires for a change. And then promptly putting them out - over and over again.
It was all part of live fire training, which was the culmination of more than a month of training for nine of the newest Largo firefighters. And those firefighters can’t start soon enough.
The department has been plagued by staffing problems for several years and was $1 million over budget on overtime expenses this past year. In a bid to solve the problem, the City Commission boosted the budget in its public-safety staffing plan.
Those nine firefighters are the result of that plan. Also, a job offer to a fire public educator is expected to be made this week.
“Without those new people that we have, it makes everything that we do on a daily basis that we need to do to protect the community, it makes it 10 times harder on us,” Assistant Fire Chief Terry Tokarz said.
But before the department can breathe a sigh of relief, the probationary officers still have training to do. And more training.
It takes six months for them to become county-certified paramedics, and then there are plenty more skills they have to learn before they can relieve the burden on the department.
LARGO - At a gym in Largo, a group of seniors train three times a week for the fight of their lives. Only the adversary is far more formidable than any fighter. It doesn’t bleed when you hit it, and you can’t knock it out with a single punch. The opponent is Parkinson’s disease, and the participants are fighting to regain control of their lives.
They are doing it through the Rock Steady Boxing program at Bodyssey gym on Walsingham Road. That’s right, boxing. The same culprit that has robbed Muhammad Ali of his signature verve and so many other boxers of their quality of life.
CLEARWATER - Every nine seconds in this country, a woman is assaulted or beaten. One in three women has been victims of physical violence within their lifetime. Intimate partner crime accounts for 15 percent of all violent crime in the United States.
Domestic violence is so widespread, the Centers for Disease Control has declared it an epidemic.
In an effort the stem the tide of domestic abuse in Pinellas County, the Clearwater Police Department and Haven of Religions Community Services have joined forces with the creation and launch of the Lethality Assessment Program.
BELLEAIR - It has taken months but now the renovation of the town-owned Belleview Biltmore Golf Club is complete. Green Golf Partners, the Indianapolis-based firm that operates the club for the city, did the work.
According to a company release all 59 bunkers on the course have been renovated with new sand, sod and at three holes new tee boxes have been built.
General Manager Zack Vervaecke said the renovation is something that will benefit everybody who uses the club.
OLDSMAR - The Oldsmar City Council authorized City Manager Bruce Haddock to negotiate an agreement with Empower Adventure Operations for a zip line Nov. 17.
The vote for the “outdoor adventure concession” at Mobbly Bayou Wilderness Preserve was unanimous. However, before passing all other items on the docket, Council Member Eric Seidel asked to pull the zip line vote for discussion.
“We received a letter expressing concerns about putting a zip line in the preserved area,” Seidel said.
LARGO - The ballots have been cast, the votes have been counted and the winners have been crowned for the second Best of Largo contest.
Optical Factory & Showroom, Proino Breakfast Club, Golden Glow Medical Spa and Royal Treatment Pet Sitting are the winners of the contest hosted by the Largo Leader, which partnered with the city of Largo in its month long promotion of Largo-based businesses during Small Business Month. The four winners will be featured in a December issue of the Largo Leader.
Families and children, seniors and more could use a helping hand this holiday season. Each year, Tampa Bay Newspapers puts together a Share the Spirit list of the different activities submitted by those doing things to make the holidays bright. To add to this list, email email@example.com.
Turkey and food basket distribution
CLEARWATER - The Salvation Army serving Clearwater and Upper Pinellas County will give away more than 8,500 turkeys and food baskets to local families for Thanksgiving Monday and Tuesday, Nov. 23-24, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Those who registered for assistance in October can drive through and pick up their turkey Nov. 23-24 from The Salvation Army at various locations across Upper Pinellas County, with the main distribution center occurring in the lot near the YMCA and corner of Druid Road and Highland Avenue in proximity to the Salvation Army Mallory-Powell Social Services Campus, 1521 E. Druid Road, Clearwater. The Salvation Army relies on community partners and more than 100 volunteers to help with distribution. For information on volunteering, call Director of Development Lindsay Crossland at 727-725-9777, ext. 108 or email Lindsay_Crossland@uss.salvationarmy.org.