Joe’s Creek Greenway Park now features three observation platforms, including this one, for park visitors to take in the views.
LEALMAN - Once overgrown and cluttered with debris, 38 acres of land in Lealman is now a greenway park. And the efforts to make the Joe’s Creek Greenway Park a reality led to honors for Pinellas County staff involved in the project.
At the 22nd annual Future of the Region Awards hosted by the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council on March 28, Pinellas County staff members and commissioners were recognized with a second place award in the Natural Resource/Environment category.
The park project involved staff from Pinellas County Health and Community Services, Parks and Conservation Resources and the Department of Environment and Infrastructure.
It began when citizens led by the Lealman Community Association identified a need to improve the parcel of land just west of active railroad tracks in the center of Lealman owned by Pinellas County.
Over the course of the project, the land has gone from an overgrown dumping ground to a sanctuary for visitors and wildlife.
“This park is a little gem in the heart of Lealman that people should take advantage of,” said Ray Neri, the president of the Lealman Community Association who had the original idea for the park after discovering the property on a walk. “It is so peaceful and so pristine, with a variety of wildlife viewing opportunities.”
To restore the property, the county undertook substantial efforts to remove invasive plants and tons of debris, on land and in Joe’s Creek, which runs through the property. Workers then planted native plants and improved the eroded shoreline along Joe’s Creek.
To turn the property into a park with public access, a one-mile paved trail, pedestrian bridges, observation platforms, restrooms, mini picnic shelters and educational signage were among the items installed, along with improvements to the parking area. Volunteers through the Tampa Bay Estuary Program and Give a Day for the Bay assisted throughout the process.
Since this extensive improvement project was completed in November 2013, the park has been used consistently by local residents to positive reviews.