Peggy Johannesen of Safety Harbor, right, works with volunteers like Barb Wodjan to keep Philippe Park in good shape.
There are hundreds of people who volunteer at the various parks within Pinellas County. Some may work a few hours a week or a month. Then there are others like Peggy Johannesen, who, as lead volunteer, can often be found at Philippe Park in Safety Harbor.
A 2011 Partner in Public Service award winner, she, along with several other volunteers, help maintain the park so the hundreds of people who visit each week have a pleasant and enjoyable experience.
Johanneson lives near the park and has been volunteering their since 1998, long enough so that she knows and greets many of the regular visitors and their dogs by name. The upstate New York native calls Philippe Park her “happy place” and says she “feels a spiritual connection to the park and the land.”
“The parks to me are very important as we become so over populated, so I like taking care of it,” she says. In addition to volunteering at the park, Peggy volunteered at Watershed management for about a year. She also owns Classic Image Hair Salon in Safety Harbor, so she is kept quit busy.
The park, named after Count Odet Philippe who introduced citrus culture to Florida, is the oldest in Pinellas County and features 1 mile of shoreline overlooking beautiful old Tampa Bay. There is an Indian mound that’s on the National Register of Historic Landmarks along with a boat ramp, ball field, rock climbing park and more features that need constant care and attention.
One project that Peggy is proud of having had a hand in is a remodeled kiosk located near the boat ramp. She said the old one was pretty “decapitated and no one paid much attention to it.” The new one, complete with new shingles (installed by one of the county park rangers) and paint has gotten the thumbs up from park visitors. It features, among other information, a listing of the times of high and low tides, sunrises and sunsets for each day and a map of Pinellas County and all its parks.
Johannesen is very modest and notes that there are several others who volunteer at Philippe Park. They include Barb Wodjan, Margie Harris, Julie Marsalek, Ken Knox, Frank Marsalek and Rodney DeHaan. Together they clean and maintain the park, trying to preserve a “nice balance” between being too overgrown and out of control and the park being too neat and unnatural looking.
Jonathan Skinner, volunteer program coordinator for Pinellas County Parks and Conservation Resources Department, said Johannesen “embodies all that’s right with the volunteer spirit.” He added “she works exceedingly well with staff, other volunteers and park visitors and is the poster child for what we would like to see in a volunteer.” He wishes there were more people like Peggy Johannesen.