Message from our President
Our waterfront parks are being enjoyed more and more now that COVID-19 restrictions are easing up. It is wonderful to see people of all ages enjoying the many features our downtown waterfront parks provide to our community. We have also been “discovered” as a destination city with new residents arriving daily, making the preservation of waterfront open space even more important as our user numbers increase.
The Spring floral planting has been installed in the waterfront parks through the generosity of the Majeed Family (MajeedFoundation.org). The installation of seasonal flowers has been expanded and now adds vibrant floral color to 3rd Ave. N.E. and Beach Dr.; 4th Ave N.E. and Beach Drive; Coffee Pot Blvd. and North Shore Dr. N.E.; four large flower beds along Tampa Bay near the volleyball courts; and a soon-to-be-installed location at 5th Ave. and Bayshore Dr. N.E. The Majeed Foundation has made it possible, through their ongoing funding of these floral displays and their maintenance, to provide the City with a number of bright focal points to highlight our waterfront park system.
The Majeed Foundation will also provide funding for the installation of the first bench swing in our downtown waterfront parks. The bench swing was designed by the Waterfront Parks Foundation and engineered by Bill Reidy of Advanced Engineering & Design, Inc. This prototype swing will be installed along Tampa Bay in Flora Wylie Park near the intersection of Coffee Pot Blvd. and Northshore Dr. N.E. It will be installed this summer and we will be asking the public for their impressions and comments. If we receive positive input, we will be installing more bench swings within the parks.
The Waterfront Parks Foundation joined forces with the St. Petersburg Downtown Rotary Club this year for the refurbishment of the William Straub monument in South Straub Park. A dedication ceremony was held on May 7th. Stop by and visit the monument. Use your cell phone to receive information on Mr. Straub, who was the editor of the St. Petersburg Times, a founder of the St. Petersburg Rotary Club and the man who was instrumental in giving St. Petersburg the wonderful waterfront parks we enjoy today!
The Foundation’s Committees, in coordination with the City Parks Department, have been busy with various important aspects of the waterfront parks including utilities, benches, park zoning, site lighting, signage, and special events. One of the upcoming events will be “Hunt the Waterfront,” a fun-filled scavenger hunt to discover interesting facts about St. Pete and the waterfront parks. The Foundation also continues to provide advocacy for our waterfront parks and, most recently, formed a committee to mitigate negative impacts on Demens Landing Park found in the proposed Safe Harbor Development conceptual marina plan.
Phil Graham, Jr., President
Waterfront Parks Foundation
Setting the Record Straight
The proposed St Petersburg Marina privatization and redevelopment plan by Safe Harbor Development (SHD) is one of the most controversial issues affecting our waterfront today and has a potentially profound generational impact.
Faced with this challenge, President Phil Graham Jr. led a Waterfront Parks Foundation (WPF) committee in reviewing the Demens Landing parkland and green space portion of the proposal. "Waterfront parkland use is core to WPF's mission," according to Phil. "However, since our WPF charter does not cover the overall Marina or operations, we limited our review to only the Demens Landing parkland portion."
WPF was briefly swept up in the surrounding Marina controversy when Mayor Rick Kriseman misinterpreted the Foundation's position and subsequent news stories, and social media posts repeated the incorrect information.
"This turned out to be a blessing in disguise," states Phil, "because I had a great opportunity to set the record straight when Joe Hamilton of the St. Pete Catalyst offered an invitation for an interview. It presented a wonderful chance to share our waterfront parks mission with a broader audience, as well as detailing the WPF's position regarding the Marina proposal." Phil continued: "Our position is clear. At this time, we do not offer any approval or endorsement of the Demens Landing portion until three extremely specific conditions are met satisfactorily." The WPF will not offer an opinion on the overall Safe Harbor redevelopment proposal.
Phil adds: "We estimate that it would take months under the best of circumstances for the City and SHD to meet our conditions and they still may balk at those requirements. Only if all the conditions are satisfactorily met would WPF offer a conditional approval which will be limited to the Demens Land parkland use."
The WPF position and contingent conditions are further outlined in Phil's Catalyst interview.
Rotary Club Rededicates Monument Honoring William Straub on 100th Anniversary
The Rotary Club of St. Petersburg held a ceremony rededicating the William L. Straub monument on May 7, 2021, located on the northeast corner of South Straub Park. The monument serves the purpose of educating the public about the important role William Straub played in preserving our waterfront parks. Straub was the first president of the Rotary Club of St. Petersburg in 1920.
The Rotary Club graciously funded the needed restoration of this beautiful monument, as part of their centennial celebration this past year. The monument now includes an additional plaque with a new interactive feature for smart phones to provide more information about William Straub's impact on our city and Rotary.
Phil Graham, Jr., President of the Waterfront Parks Foundation who is also a Rotarian, worked closely with AGG Restoration to bring this project to fruition. "It's wonderful to have the DeVicente Family here with us for this rededication," said Graham. "Their kids are able to enjoy our waterfront parks thanks to the vision William Straub had many years ago."
"William Straub was my great-great grandfather. I've known about him since I was very young," said Logan DeVicente, Vice President of the Waterfront Parks Foundation. The monument will remind St. Pete residents and visitors about my great-great grandfather for many years to come."
Kathy DeVicente, Logan's mother and the great granddaughter of William Straub, was also in attendance for the rededication of the monument. “The new technology for this memorial is very impressive," she said. "My great grandfather was such an integral part of St. Petersburg and had such a vision."
We hope you are able to enjoy the improvements to the monument, which is on the corner of 2nd Avenue North and North Shore Drive. The Waterfront Parks Foundation is grateful for the generosity of the Rotary Club for this improvement to our parks.
Read more about William Straub: https://sprotary.org/straub/
Fun Events Return to the Waterfront Parks
Fun Fitness Boot Camp
Saturday, May 15—Healthy St. Pete | Fun Fitness Boot Camp by St. Petersburg Parks and Recreation takes place on the third Saturday of each month, 9:00–10:00 am on the Family Lawn at the St. Pete Pier. Free! Click here to learn more.
French Fry Festival
Saturday, May 15—St. Petersburg French Fry Festival returns to Albert Whitted Park in St. Petersburg on Saturday, May 15 from 3:00 to 10:00 pm. The event will feature 20 food trucks, in addition to a craft beer and wine booth for adults to enjoy. Details can be found on ILoveTheBurg.com.
Movies in the Park
Thursday, May 20—Join us for Preserve the Burg’s Movies in the Park! Once again this year, the Waterfront Parks Foundation is a Platinum Sponsor for Preserve the Burg’s semi-annual Movies in the Parks, which is held in North Straub Park. Due to COVID-19, the event is back with limited seating so tickets are required this year. The May 20th featured movie is Two Weeks Notice starring Sandra Bullock and Hugh Grant. Gates open at 6:15 pm with food and drinks available (you may also bring your own picnic) and live music starts at 7:00. The film begins on the big screen at sunset. Get your tickets and more info from Preserve the ‘Burg, and we’ll see you there!
Coming Soon—Watch for the release of WPF’s HUNT THE WATERFRONT Scavenger Hunt. This safe and fun activity will use your smartphone to guide you through our beautiful downtown waterfront parks in a challenging way! The WPF is providing this free event as an engaging and safe way to get to better know and appreciate our beautiful jewels on Tampa Bay. We’ll send a link to our subscribers and post on our Events tab as soon as it’s ready. So, if you aren’t already on our mailing list, be sure to sign up on our Events page.
We look forward to seeing you in the Parks!
Our annual event, the “Champagne Shuffle” at the Historic St. Petersburg Shuffleboard Club was a tremendous success with 179 in attendance and over 200 tickets sold. Everyone seemed to have a wonderful time just “shuffling“ or competing for prizes. Good food and drink; friends met and friends made. We are grateful to all who supported this event and especially to our major sponsors: Republic Bank, JMC Communities, Hampton Inn, and the Vinoy Renaissance Resort. This will become an annual event for us and we hope you will shuffle on down with us next year. See more highlights and pictures at https://waterfrontparksfoundation.org/2019-champagne-shuffle
Our website, www.waterfrontparksfoundation.org , has just been completely reworked by Communicasting, Inc., with a panoramic videos and interesting photos of our amazing downtown waterfront park system. The website also includes information on our organization, its purpose and activities and showcases each of the downtown waterfront parks, including the location of each and its unique characteristics, as well as information on upcoming activities and news items. We invite you to take a look at our site and hope you enjoy what you see.
I wanted to share with you some terrific news regarding our funding initiative for crafting and implementing land use and zoning changes to protect and preserve our waterfront parks. We have received a generous matching grant from an anonymous donor. These funds will be used to assist us in our effort to provide to the City language that would clean up the land use and zoning codes regarding our Downtown Waterfront Parks. Recently, the law firm of Carlton Fields extended very generous pro bono offer to provide legal representation for this initiative. Of course, there will still be additional legal filing fees, public awareness / marketing communications and other related expenses. Our matching fund donor was thrilled to learn that his donation—and yours—will now further enhance our ability to succeed in our land use and zoning initiatives as well as our overall ability to meet our Mission to Preserve, Protect and Promote our Waterfront Parks. We will be working with Carlton Fields and the City’s Legal and Planning Departments to better clarify the land use categories and zoning regulations regarding what can be developed within the Downtown Waterfront Parks. There are currently four different Land Use categories in the Comprehensive Plan as they relate to the Downtown Waterfront Parks. It also appears there are four different zoning categories, some of which allow for inappropriate development within our Downtown Waterfront Parks. We will be working to provide better protections for the preservation of our amazing Waterfront Parks through this process.
The New St Pete Pier™ and Pier Approach vertical construction is well underway and will be progressing at a rapid pace until its completion in the Spring of 2020. Continued construction updates and images can be found at www.newstpetepier.com.
Our city is becoming increasingly dense each day as buildings rise and more people discover our wonderful city. All this popularity has added pressures on our waterfront parkland. Our Downtown Waterfront Parks have become a place to “exhale” for all of our citizens, away from the bustle of city life. More and more people are discovering the pastoral views of Tampa Bay, shaded walks and venues for a plethora of events for all ages. Our park’s founders could only imagine how popular and important their contribution to our community would become. With your help, we can preserve the precious open views to the Bay and provide appropriate amenities throughout our parks for all our citizens to enjoy.
Meet Our Board Members - Joan Jaicks
For Waterfront Parks Foundation Board Member Joan Jaicks, volunteering for a cause in which she believes is as natural as breathing. Joan was attending a St. Petersburg Women’s Chamber of Commerce meeting back in the 1990s when she heard WPF founder Phil Graham speak on the need for support and beautification of the parks, and she instantly appreciated the importance of preserving the parks. She did whatever she could for the city to help with beautification. Then in 2013, she saw an article in the Tampa Bay Times in which Phil announced the creation of the Downtown Waterfront Parks Foundation. Joan gave her old friend, Phil, a call and offered her support. She has served on the board since its inception.
Joan moved to St. Petersburg as a child and other than her time at Florida State University, she has lived here ever since. Throughout her life, she’s never lived more than a few blocks from Tampa Bay. After college, Joan met her late husband, Don, while working in retail at the former Maas Brothers Department Store. She took time off work to raise their two children, and then returned to work for the Pinellas County Tax Collector where she spent the bulk of her career. She then took a part-time position as Information Specialist for the St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce where she spent 20 years on “the front lines,” dealing with the public at the Chamber’s main office and at the St. Petersburg Pier. She officially retired from “paid work” in 2010.
But she certainly didn’t stop working to improve her beloved city. In addition to her involvement with WPF, Joan has contributed countless volunteer hours as an active member of many local service organizations, including the St. Petersburg Woman’s Club, the Women’s Chamber of Commerce, and the Florida Orchestra Guild. She has also volunteered for many years at St. Anthony’s Hospital and she assists annually at the City of St. Petersburg Green Thumb Festival. “If I can do something to help people or keep this city as beautiful as it is, why not?” says Joan. Of her work for the Waterfront Parks Foundation, Joan says, “I think we have the most beautiful waterfront in the country, and I think more people should take advantage of it.”
Her commitment to service has not gone unnoticed. In the mid-2000s, Joan was appointed to the City Beautiful Commission, a group that works for the City of St. Petersburg to enhance and safeguard the beauty of our natural resources and city landscape. She served on the Commission for six years. In 2007, she was inducted into the St. Petersburg Senior Hall of Fame and she also was awarded the Keys to the City. in 2010, Joan was chosen as the 2010 Queen of Hearts. In 2015, Joan was given the Elva Rouse City Beautification Award. In 2017, the St. Anthony’s Hospital Foundation presented Joan with the Helen D. Roberts Philanthropy Award.
When describing the past year’s work with the Women’s Chamber of Commerce, Joan remarks, “I’m so proud that the Women’s Chamber chose the Waterfront Parks Foundation was one of the recipients of our annual fundraiser, which then helped contribute to the recent WPF Matching Funds Campaign.”
Certainly, this board is proud to have Joan Jaicks serve as a board member of the Waterfront Parks Foundation.
See you in the park!
Phil Graham, Jr., President
Waterfront Parks Foundation
Message From Our President
I wish you all a wonderful holiday season and we all look forward to a happy and prosperous New Year.
The Foundation has celebrated a successful year in the preservation, protection and promotion of our amazing waterfront parks. Our annual Champagne Shuffle event was a great success; we raised matching grant funds for the crafting of land use and zoning changes to clarify conflicting regulations; our website has been completely restructured and we are now visible on all social media platforms; and we have made several community presentations on the future of our waterfront park system.
The new year promises to include the completion of many new and ongoing projects of the Foundation. Through the generosity of donors, special projects will be initiated: design and installation of a prototypical swing, floral plantings at high focal areas of the park system, relocation/removal of unnecessary utilities, review and refurbishment of benches and trash receptacles, review of signage within the parks, enhancement of accent and pedestrian lighting, and development of a community speakers team.
All of these projects cannot be accomplished without the help of the community—both financially and physically. To accomplish the physical needs of these tasks, the Board has initiated an invitation to our community members who are passionate about our waterfront parks to join one or more of our service committees. A brief description of these committees is published within the current Park Views, with a more thorough descriptions on the Volunteer page of the website. The Waterfront Parks Foundation is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, and as such, cannot have “members” other than Board members. While our Board members work hard to accomplish the Foundation’s Mission, we have many more projects than we can accomplish alone. I ask you to review the list of the Foundation Committees and select one or more that you would like to help with. The Foundation is grateful and considerate of each volunteer’s time and will limit participation only to what is necessary to achieve the committee’s objectives.
2020 promises to be an exciting and fruitful year for the Waterfront Parks Foundation and we look forward to the participation of our community to help us Protect, Preserve and Promote our treasured Waterfront Parks.
Thank you and Happy Holidays,
Phil Graham, Jr.
Waterfront Parks Foundation
Meet Our Board Members - New WPF Vice President Logan DeVicente
One of the newer members of the WPF wasted no time in committing his time and talent in a big way! Logan DeVicente, who joined the WPF Board in 2018, now serves on the WPF Executive Committee as Vice President. He joins Founder and President Phil Graham, Jr., Secretary Charles Osterholt and Treasurer Tami Simms.
Logan’s history in St. Petersburg—and his commitment to our waterfront parks--runs deep. “I am a fifth-generation native who has always been interested in family history. The more I learned, the more I appreciated the families who were dedicated in making St. Petersburg such a unique and charming city.” Logan’s great-great-grandfather, William Lincoln Straub, led the effort to preserve and protect our public waterfront system. (See the website for the Winter 2018 edition of this newsletter to read WPF member Will Michael’s story on William L. Straub.)
Although Logan’s mother’s family were early settlers, his distinct last name comes straight from Spain. “When my mom was young, she went to Spain and taught English to native Spanish speakers. My father was one of her students, and their love story began there.” When she returned home, Logan’s father accompanied her, and they started their life together in St. Petersburg.
Logan’s wife, Natalie, grew up in Gulfport and they both graduated from St. Petersburg High School. They are the proud parents of Harper, 7, Lily, 5 and Landon, 18 months. A Certified Financial Planner who specializes in financial planning for families, Logan has worked in the industry for 15 years. He attended University of Florida where he earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees. In addition to his service to WPF, Logan serves on the Boards of Great Explorations Children’s Museum, Pioneer Park and the First Flight Foundation. Prior to joining WPF, he spent seven years on the Board of Preserve the ’Burg.
On joining WPF, Logan comments, “I believe that our waterfront park system is the gem of the city. It is something that so many people cherish and it’s a big part of what attracts them to our lovely city. I feel that these parks need to be protected and cared for so that they can be enjoyed by as many people as possible. I want to help WPF be a voice for the protection and beautification of our waterfront parks.”
Join us in welcoming Logan to our team.
Marketing Committee Sets the Pace
As you can see, our recently revamped website at www.waterfrontparksfoundation.org continues to evolve in the best way, with new videos and additional images featuring the unique aspects of each of the waterfront parks. Be sure to check back regularly for new views of the parks.
Our revamped Facebook page debuted in September with an initial promotion for our Preserve the ’Burg’s October “Movies in the Park” sponsorship. This sponsorship resulted in some unexpected exposure thanks to a special substitution on October 10th, when the event featured the Tampa Bay Rays vs. Houston Astros in the post-season playoff Game 5. The event’s enthusiastic turnout that evening provided terrific publicity for our WPF sponsorship efforts.
Our Marketing Committee members are now busy supporting the Champagne Shuffle Committee to enhance the marketing, promotional and communications efforts for WPF's signature event, the 3rd Annual Champagne Shuffle, which is scheduled for Sunday, April 5, 2020. It promises to be another fun-filled event with friends and families from all over St. Pete!
WPF Committee Members Wanted
Volunteers are sought for each of the committees described herein. Please study these brief overviews and find a committee or two where you feel you can make a difference, then follow the link to the Committees page on our website which provides a more thorough description of each committee. Then—and this is essential—SIGN UP to join the committee of your choice! The more hands, the lighter the load, so invite your friends to sign up too. Together, we can work with the City to make our waterfront parklands the best they can be!
1-A LAND USE & ZONING / MODIFICATIONS COMMITTEE—This committee needs members with some knowledge of municipal codes and zoning, as members will coordinate and review land use revisions to the Downtown Waterfront Parks prepared by our attorneys, Carlton Fields.
1-B LAND USE & ZONING / ELECTRICAL, WATER AND OTHER UTILITY STRUCTURES—If you are familiar with power distribution, we need you! This committee needs at least four volunteers who will meet with the head of the City Parks and Water Departments and Duke Energy representatives to review the viability, location and size of their related facilities, many of which are now unnecessary or abandoned and clutter the park views with unnecessary structures, pipes, etc. Other utilities that need review include phone, gas, fiber optics and cable.
2-A SPECIAL PROJECTS / BENCHES & RECEPTACLES—Our park benches are in constant need of refurbishing! The WPF is working on a long-term solution to this ongoing and expensive problem. Committee members will work with the City Parks Department to research sustainable materials and methods for refurbishment of the 350+ benches in need of improvement or provide information for a design to use as a new standard park bench. Another task includes reviewing/adding to placement of benches and waste receptacles. Two to three members are welcome.
2-B SPECIAL PROJECTS / SIGNAGE—This committee would work with the City Parks Department in the design and selection of regulatory, informational and identification signage standards for the parks. The committee would create a list of the signs required; coordinate conceptual design and location with the contractor doing the Pier signage; select appropriate family of signage from the concepts; request pricing; and work with the City Staff for approvals and implementation. Three to four members needed.
2-C SPECIAL PROJECTS / FLORAL PLANTINGS—Gardeners welcome! A generous donor has offered to fund floral enhancements for selected areas of the park system. Committee members would assist in the selection of plant materials for these high-visibility areas which would be planted three times a year. Two to four volunteers are welcome.
2-D SPECIAL PROJECTS / SWING—We have developed a prototype swing to be erected in some areas of the waterfront parks. This committee work is already in progress, but one or two additional volunteers would be welcome to help provide input and coordination with the City.
2-E SPECIAL PROJECTS / LIGHTING—This committee will assist in the expansion of the City’s recent replacement of the Tivoli lights in the trees in Straub Park with up lights within the tree canopies. Our goal (with the financial support of a procured donor) is to expand the lighting to other areas of the waterfront park system in need of additional illumination, including lighting of the primary park signage. This committee would also look at the current light type, coverage and location of light poles within the parks. This committee needs four to five members.
2-F SPECIAL PROJECTS / MAINTENANCE—These members would act as “watch dogs” and would work with the City Parks Department, bringing attention to areas or elements of disrepair, degradation or other maintenance needs within our waterfront parks. Members might also assist with light physical maintenance of the parks to keep them looking their best.
3-A SPECIAL EVENTS / CHAMPAGNE SHUFFLE—This committee already is at work coordinating our annual fundraising event, which takes place at the St. Petersburg Shuffleboard Club. Additional volunteers are welcome to assist with this event.
3-B SPECIAL EVENTS/CIVIC PARTICIPATION—Committee members would act as volunteers at various community festivals and events such as the Green Thumb Festival, Wine & Food Festival, Earth Day, etc. Activities might include staffing tables, collecting names/emails of interested visitors, passing out literature, etc. Two to five members are welcome.
4-A MARKETING & COMMUNITY OUTREACH / ADVOCACY—Members of this committee will assist in the preservation, maintenance and appropriate enhancements of the waterfront park system. This would be accomplished by supporting the Foundation’s advocacy of the parks, promoting our Mission throughout the community, and building a lasting working relationship with the City Administration, City Staff and City Council members. Two to four members are welcome.
4-B MARKETING & COMMUNITY OUTREACH / SPEAKERS TEAM—Public speakers, here’s your opportunity: we need committee members willing to make presentations to residential, business, community and other interested groups on the Mission of the Waterfront Parks Foundation to develop an understanding of our purpose, encourage volunteers, provide opportunities for fundraising and build support for the preservation of our waterfront park system throughout the community (presentation training and materials will be provided). Two to four members are welcome.
Please consider what committee(s) which you would like to participate and complete the form below. We also encourage you to share this information with your family, friends and associates and invite them to participate with you.
See more detailed descriptions and a volunteer registration form at www.waterfrontparksfoundation.org/volunteer
Save The Date
Get your group together and mark your calendars for our WPF annual fundraiser, Champagne Shuffle, which takes place on Sunday, April 5, 3:00–6:00 pm at the historic St. Petersburg Shuffleboard Club. The event gets bigger and better every year! In addition to the complimentary glass of bubbly, appetizers and our round robin shuffleboard competition, this year’s event will include a raffle table with plenty of great prizes. It’s a fun afternoon for all ages and a great way to support our downtown waterfront parks.
Tickets are $20 if you reserve early; $25 day of event and will be available online after the first of the year. Check our Event Page on Facebook for more details.
A Salute to our Board of Trustees
It has been eight years since the inception of the Downtown Waterfront Parks Foundation (WPF). The organization has worked diligently over this period to "Preserve, Protect, and Promote" St. Petersburg’s amazing waterfront parks. Our success as an organization has been made possible through the generosity of our supporters and the unwavering commitment to the Foundation’s Mission by our Board of Trustees. I’d like to take this opportunity to publicly thank the WPF Board members for the time, talent and treasure they have each afforded to the community through their service to the Foundation.
The Waterfront Parks Foundation began in 2012 with two boards: the Board of Trustees and an Advisory Board. The Board of Trustees was the governing Board that guided policy for the organization and was comprised of men and women passionate about the preservation and protection of the privately-funded gift of the waterfront parks, by our City founders, for the benefit of all of St. Petersburg. The Trustee Board was made up of myself, as President; Charles Osterholt, Secretary; Tami Simms, Treasurer; and Board members Kent Lydecker, Ph.D., Robert Lovejoy, Joan Jaicks, Peter Betzer, Ph.D., Doug Fischer, Ed Montanari, Will Michaels, Ph.D., Don Howe and Marty Wallace. Joel Giles, Esq. provided pro bono legal services for the WPF formation. Later Board members were Mike Cheezem, John Bowman, Helen Levine, Ph.D., David Feaster, Velva Lee Heraty, Karen Brown Dunlap, Ph.D. and Jesse Perez. The first Advisory Board was made up of like-minded community stakeholders and leaders that included the Foundation officers, and members Robert Carter, Tim Clemmons, Philip Graham IV, Mack Hicks, PhD., Sherry McBee, Ed Montanari, Peter Belmont, Esq. and Matt Shapiro. In 2016 we joined the two boards into one Board of Trustees. The current Board is comprised of officers Phil Graham, Charles Osterholt, Tami Simms and Logan DeVicente, Vice President, who make up the Executive Committee; and members Peter Betzer, Ph.D.; Robert Carter; Colleen Crutchfield; Bill Dahl; JP Fatseas; Doug Fisher; David Fischer; Harvey Ford, Esq.; Philip Graham IV; Patti Helton, Ph.D.; Mack Hicks, Ph.D.; Don Howe; Joan Jaicks; W. Richard Johnston; Will Michaels, Ph.D.; Sally Poynter; Ross Preville; and Robert Ulrich, Esq. Mike Jefferis, Parks & Recreation Administrator and Councilman Ed Montanari are Ex-Officio members and Therese Johnson is our Executive Administrator.
These dedicated volunteers represent the BEST of St. Petersburg and provide leadership in other areas of our community as well. We are most fortunate to have these individuals guiding the policy and performance of our organization. I am grateful for their contributions toward the preservation, protection and promotion of our amazing Downtown Waterfront Parks! Thank you, Board Members, Past and Present!
Phil Graham, Jr.
Waterfront Parks Foundation
Meet Our Board Members—Peter R. Betzer, PhD
Board Member Peter Betzer has served on the Waterfront Parks Foundation since its inception, and he brings a valuable wealth of knowledge and experience to the board. Peter and his wife, Susan Beers Betzer, MD, moved to St. Petersburg in 1971, soon after he earned his PhD in chemical oceanography from the University of Rhode Island’s Graduate School of Oceanography. He joined the faculty of the University of South Florida’s Department of Marine Science, where he served until retiring in 2008. During his tenure there, Dr. Betzer served as Founding Dean and Professor of USF’S College of Marine Science. “It was exciting to play a key part in converting an industrial backwater into the largest marine research complex (www.spoceanteam.org) in the southeastern United States,” he remarks. “I am especially proud of the donations ($10 million) I solicited that endowed 18 student fellowships during the 25 years I led (Department Chair/Dean) the College of Marine Science.”
The author of over 60 scientific publications in journals and books, Dr. Betzer was a co-recipient of a Distinguished Authorship Award from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in 1985. From 1986-89 and again from 1995-99, he was appointed to the Ocean Sciences Advisory Panel for The National Science Foundation.
After retiring from USF, Peter was appointed CEO of the St. Petersburg Downtown Partnership, a group that has been pivotal to the emergence of St. Petersburg, Florida as an internationally prominent center for marine research. After retiring from the Partnership in 2017, he was appointed to the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Sea Grant Advisory Board which oversees Sea Grant Programs in 33 university systems.
In addition to Peter’s illustrious career in oceanography, he also immersed himself—quite literally—in the waters at North Shore Aquatics Center, where he joined the St. Petersburg Master’s team in 1973 and over the next 47 years, swam over 25,000 miles with the group! While competing in the 2002 World Championships in Christchurch, New Zealand, his time for the 100-meter breaststroke was the fastest recorded for all U.S. male swimmers in the 60–64-year-old age group. Of this honor, Peter remarks, “I was delighted to become an All American swimmer, something I could have never imagined during my college career.”
He has also made time for extensive public service, donating his energies to the Pier Aquarium, Bayfront Medical Center, Canterbury School of Florida, Ocean Optics, serving as Coach of St. Petersburg High School Swim Team, the Lawrence University Board of Trustees, as a member of the International Relations Committee for the City of St. Petersburg, the Florida Orchestra, the Palladium Chamber Players, and as a member of the Sea Grant Advisory Board.
Peter and Susan raised two daughters in St. Petersburg, Sarah and Katherine, both of whom now live out-of-state. The Betzers enjoy living across the street from Crescent Lake Park in St. Pete.
Of his service to the WPF, Peter says, “It is immensely satisfying to be part of the Downtown Waterfront Parks Foundation, a group that is working not only to preserve but to enhance some of St. Petersburg’s most beautiful assets. I hope that my active collaboration with the members of the Downtown Waterfront Parks Foundation, with local business leaders and with the city, will help maintain and improve our waterfront parks so they remain a destination for residents and visitors alike.”
Waterfront Parks In The News
The recent flower bed plantings that took place earlier this month at North Straub and Flora Wiley Parks that were made possible by a generous donation from the Majeed Foundation got us some good coverage by the Tampa Bay Times.
The Pier is completed, and our community is discovering its many features. It has been a long time coming and many are pleased with what they see! We are hopeful this project will achieve the intended goals of activating the entire Pier area as an inviting attraction for residents and visitors alike.
The COVID-19 lock down has been stressful. However, out of hardship can come opportunity! In my visits to the waterfront parks these past months, it is apparent that our community has discovered--or rediscovered--the value of these beautiful open spaces. I am delighted at the numbers of people enjoying our parks, whether walking, biking, exercising, sitting and chatting, contemplating, picnicking, sunbathing, swinging in hammocks, engaging in sports, using the dog park, or just enjoying views of Tampa Bay. The pandemic has been a catalyst for many to get out of their confines and enjoy the benefits of nature and fresh air in our waterfront parks! Our own family got together recently at Flora Wylie Park. We each brought our folding chairs and our snacks, arranged our seating in a large circle and had a wonderful afternoon of fun and laughter. We put a big blanket in the middle of the circle where the youngest could play. There were many other groups in the park that day. We were impressed that everyone spaced themselves a distance from other groups so that we were all comfortable with room to spare.
How fortunate we are to have this open green space, recreation, and beauty right in our front yard! We continue to be grateful to our founders for their long-range vision and the commitment that benefits us still today. It is the mission of the Waterfront Parks Foundation to continue to preserve and maintain this great treasure.
More good news; everyone is enjoying the beautiful new flower beds! We will be changing the flowers seasonally as well as adding new flower beds. The funds for these flowers are provided by The Majeed Foundation and we are so very grateful for their generosity and personal commitment to making our Waterfront Parks more beautiful.
The Waterfront Parks Foundation has committees to help us Preserve, Protect and Promote the park system. They include Lighting, Benches, Signage, Floral Projects, Land Use & Zoning, Swings, and Marketing. While the pandemic has limited physical meetings, the committees have worked remotely on issues to ensure our parks are a special experience for all to enjoy long into the future. I gratefully thank the participants on these committees for their dedication to our parks.
Phil Graham, Jr., President
Waterfront Parks Foundation
The Fruits of Our Visionary Pioneers
Perhaps nothing better reflects the vision and optimism of St. Petersburg’s founders than this 108-year-old newspaper article, which appeared in the St. Petersburg Times on December 14, 1912. According to historian and WPF member, Will Michaels, it was probably written by Times Editor, William L. Straub, who was part-owner and editor of the St. Petersburg Times from 1901 until his death in 1939.
The text of the original article, pictured here, has been transcribed for readers, below. Note that Mayor Abe Pheil also was the passenger on the World’s First Airline which flew from St. Pete to Tampa beginning New Year’s Day 1914. Pheil’s legacy is most well-known for this historic flight. But he also was a strong supporter of the Downtown Waterfront Parks. (Pheil also was responsible for bringing manufactured gas to St. Petersburg in 1913 as a city-owned utility, giving home cooks a much-desired alternative to cooking over the fireplace!)
When, on December 12, 1912, the city council of the Pheil administration, by an [sic] unanimous vote on a formal resolution, officially approved the plan submitted by the Board of Trade for the public recreation buildings and park on the waterfront, the waterfront “dream” plan that first came to The Times and other waterfront boosters a decade ago became an actual fact, complete in all respects.
A red letter date in St. Petersburg’s history, and the most important and memorable action of this administration, no matter what other praiseworthy work may mark the balance of its term.
In the beginning, when every foot of St. Petersburg’s waterfront was under private ownership, and apparently doomed to be lost to the public, as waterfronts were and are in almost all other waterside cities, and before it was feasible to even suggest all of it, the half-dozen original waterfront boosters in their first meeting agreed upon and have ever since unceasingly worked for this general plan:
First. All the waterfront to be owned by the city for the public’s use
Second. All commercialism to be confined to some one locality, and all the rest to be beautified.
Third. A separate harbor for pleasure boats.
Fourth. A recreation pier and park.
Slowly, one by one, a part at a time, these various features were brought forward, and pushed through. The last became a fact Thursday night, and the whole plan is now complete. The details of actual construction are to follow, but with the plans definitely secure the work is certain.
Making the Waterfront Parks a More Beautiful Place for All
There are a number of supporters in our community who help our organization with their time, talent and treasure. One life-long St. Petersburg resident, who wishes to remain anonymous, loves and enjoys our unique waterfront very much and has supported it quite generously over the years. To this donor and all our terrific supporters, we say Thank You! You make our waterfront parks a special destination in St Pete!
Over the past two years, one of the most ardent supporters of the work of the Waterfront Parks Foundation (WPF) has come from the Majeed Foundation. The Majeed Foundation has played a major role in the enhancement of our waterfront park system. In addition to sponsoring WPF’s Annual Champaign Shuffle, the Majeed Foundation has funded the beautiful floral plantings that now grace Flora Wylie Park, Straub Park’s gateway at 4th Avenue NE and Beach Drive, and in locations near the tennis and volleyball courts in North Shore Park. What a beautiful and robust difference the lively, colorful flowers have made to our Waterfront Parks!
The latest floral plantings, which are updated at least twice per year, can be seen in these photos but you must take a trip downtown to experience the sheer delight of it for yourselves.
The Majeed Foundation has also generously agreed to underwrite the creation of a prototype park swing, which will be installed along the Flora Wylie waterfront trail, for a most relaxing way to enjoy the glorious view of Tampa Bay. If the swing is as well-received as the WPF expects, the Majeed Foundation is interested in helping expand this project, so that more visitors will have an opportunity to take in the sights from the leisurely comfort of an old-fashioned swing.
The members of the Waterfront Parks Foundation are most grateful for the support of this amazing foundation. The Majeed Foundation philosophy is best described on their website (https://www.majeedfoundation.org/):
“Here at Majeed Foundation, we are driven by a single goal; to do our part in making the world a better place for all. We strive to build productive relationships and make a positive impact with all of our pursuits.”
The world and our own waterfront parks are certainly a better place thanks to the vision and gracious generosity of the Majeed Foundation!
Meet Our Board Members—Robert L. Ulrich
For WPF Board Member and former St Petersburg Mayor Bob Ulrich, his service to the Waterfront Parks Foundation is simply an extension of his lifelong history of service to our community. “Our Urban Waterfront was a focal point during our (the City’s) administration from 1987 to 1991 when we adopted three goals, the second of which was to: “preserve our waterfront and permeable open space.” At that time, Mayor Ulrich chaired all Council meetings. “The only time I relinquished the chair was to make a plea before my fellow councilmen and woman, to reject a permit for a building addition to a museum on our urban waterfront. Council passed the resolution anyway, and significant incursions to our former pristine waterfront continue.”
Mayor Ulrich is a Tampa Bay native and graduate of St. Petersburg High School. After earning his Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science from Duke University, where he honed his leadership skills as ROTC Group Commander and President of the Arnold Air Society, he served as a pilot in the U.S. Air Force. His introduction to the Japanese people and culture began while he was stationed in Fukuoka, Kyushu, Japan in the late 1950s.
Bob and his wife, Barbara, are the proud parents of four children: Lisa, Kurt, Trent and Tricia (all St. Pete residents), eight grandchildren and 2 great-grandchildren.
Following his military service, Bob returned to St. Petersburg and entered Stetson University College of Law, where he earned his J.D. in 1963. He began his legal career as an Assistant Attorney General for the State of Florida, and then associated as a partner for two local law firms and as an “of counsel” associate for a third before opening his own practice in 1996, where he continues to practice. With three associates, he organized the Bank of Florida in 1974 where he later served as its Chairman.
St. Petersburg has long benefited from Bob’s commitment to public service. He chaired the St. Petersburg Arts Commission in the mid-1970s. From 1987 to 1991, Bob served two terms as Mayor of St. Petersburg, during which time he made official visits to the Netherlands and Spain as a member of the Tampa Bay Super Task Force. During those years, Governor Bob Martinez appointed Mayor Ulrich to the Florida Blue Belt Commission, and he was also a member of the Florida League of Cities. Bob, along with Mayor Sandy Friedman of Tampa, created a committee of Florida Mayors from its six largest cities to promote the specific interests of Florida’s largest municipalities, including St. Pete. During his tenure, Mayor Ulrich stood at the forefront of the City’s implementation of a quarter-billion dollar economic development plan which included annexation of 1100 acres in north St. Petersburg, a $26,000,000 renovation of the Bayfront Center and garage construction (arena and theater of performing arts); a $14,000,000 redevelopment of our municipal pier and the unglamorous, but vital, paving of the last 37 miles of the City’s unpaved streets. That administration also built the $100,000,000, 45,000 seat covered stadium now known as the “Trop”; planned and implemented a six-block $100,000,000 downtown redevelopment project known as Bay Plaza; made concerted efforts to acquire a major league baseball franchise; actively sought the acquisition of a professional hockey franchise; explored the method and feasibility of acquiring a professional basketball franchise with the Charlotte Hornets; filed the application in Kansas City to host the NCAA Basketball finals at the Trop; spurred the $95,000,000 Vinoy resort hotel and golf course redevelopment and the $19,000,000 redevelopment of the Hilton hotel.
Bob notes that these ambitious plans were costly to the ad valorem tax payers as our ad valorem tax rate soared to the 9 mill limit and many of our local citizens did not see these efforts in a positive way. It remains a credit to our tax payers that such plans were ultimately accepted and most of its goals achieved although a number of them subsequent to his administration (e.g. Mayor Dave Fischer’s bringing our major league baseball franchise to the Trop; the north core development of the Bay Plaza Project by our local Ambassador, Mel Sembler; and Mayor Dave’s presiding over the NCAA basketball finals at the Trop, not to mention his planting some 10,000 trees in our city on his watch).
Bob also fostered increased relations with St. Petersburg’s Sister City, Takamatsu, Japan and nurtured business opportunities between St. Petersburg and Japan.
Bob’s involvement goes far beyond his years as St. Petersburg’s mayor. A partial list of his efforts include serving as chair of St. Petersburg Progress, Inc, St. Petersburg Arts Resource Commission, and the St. Petersburg Area Port Authority. He served as Trustee of the YWCA, the YMCA, Florida Southern College for a decade and continues the role of Trustee at the Salvador Dalí Museum. He served as President and Chair of the Florida Gulf Coast Symphony (now the Florida Orchestra). He served on the board of Visiting Nurses and Homemaker’s Association, and was a long standing member of the Florida Suncoasters, Inc., where he served on its Executive Committee. Bob spearheaded and implemented a business assistance program for the St. Petersburg Chamber of Commerce’s economic development effort which was later adopted by Pinellas County. He also represented the Dalí Museum in opening the Nippon TV’s exhibit in Fukuoka, Japan. And he has been a member of the Waterfront Parks Foundation since its inception in 2012.
“My reason for joining the WPF was to become a member of concerned citizens who seek to preserve our waterfront from any significant vertical and horizontal development that doesn’t fall within the definition of ‘green,’” Bob remarks. “My intent is to be a continuing protagonist for this position.”
The Downtown Waterfront Parks Newsletter is full of updates for friends of the Waterfront Parks Foundation. It includes information on special events that will be hosted at or by the Downtown Waterfront Parks Foundation, as well as our latest efforts taken to care for the parks.