Since childhood I have been able to call our downtown waterfront parks my playground. My father’s photography studio was across the street from South Straub Park and on afternoons, weekends and summers, the parks and the pier were where I played, fished and passed my time. I loved them then as I love them now! My great-great grandfather, Clarence W. Graham, was one of the Founders of our beloved Sunshine City. My roots in St. Petersburg run deep.
Our parks have been recognized as one of the foremost contiguous waterfront parks in North America! Not everyone is aware that our waterfront parks were a GIFT to the citizens of St. Petersburg from a select few of our city’s Founders, including William Straub, the crusading Editor of the St. Petersburg Times.
That is why, in 2012, I felt called to start the Waterfront Parks Foundation (WPF). With a group of like-minded men and women, we came together with a Mission “To support preservation and enhancement of the historic downtown waterfront parks for the enjoyment of residents and visitors of St. Petersburg.” We recognized the waterfront parks as the Jewels on Tampa Bay. We wanted to make sure that the parks continued to be available to all the citizens and visitors of our community; we wanted to protect the parks from developers’ shovels; and we wanted to promote the parks in the best possible ways.
It has been my privilege and pleasure to serve as President of the Waterfront Parks Foundation since its inception. I have worked with many excellent civic volunteers who share my passion for our parks. I thank them all for their contributions and support for the parks. Like me, they see their value, their beauty, and the recreational opportunities they provide for you and me. Together we have worked to enhance the parks and advocate for their protection and preservation. I especially would like to thank Charles Osterholt and Tami Simms, Secretary and Treasurer respectively, for their outstanding contributions to the WPF since its founding. I am also grateful for the generosity of our donors who have made park enhancements possible.
While remaining the Founder and a WPF Board member, I now welcome Logan DeVicente as the new President of the Waterfront Parks Foundation. Logan is a St. Petersburg native, the great-great grandson of William Straub; he is a respected businessman, active civic leader, and a devoted family man. He takes the reins this month and will continue to oversee the WFP ideals and endeavors. Logan will be an outstanding leader for our Foundation!
I hope you will continue to support our waterfront parks, and tell your family and friends about the WPF, the history of our parks, and encourage them to use and support our parks year-round. In summation, the St. Petersburg downtown waterfront parks are for you and me, for our loved ones, and for the many new residents and visitors to our beautiful city. Please join us as we continue to ‘PRESERVE, PROTECT AND PROMOTE’ the waterfront parks!
See you in the parks!
Philip H. Graham, Jr.
From Our New President
As I begin my first letter to you as President of the Waterfront Parks Foundation, I reflect upon what this amazing organization has already accomplished and what it represents for our beautiful city. I am honored and humbled to lead this exceptional endeavor.
Over 100 years ago, my great-great grandfather, William L. Straub, worked diligently to preserve our waterfront parklands so that they could be enjoyed by all. He and a group of like-minded citizens shared a long-term vision to prevent privatization of this unique property as they worked to protect and preserve it for all to enjoy. St. Petersburg’s waterfront park system now includes over four linear miles of waterfront along Tampa Bay, encompassing over 100 acres of parkland. I believe that he would be extremely proud to see that today, the Waterfront Parks Foundation continues to carry on his mission of protecting, preserving and promoting our wonderful waterfront parks.
William Straub pioneered this mission in the 20th Century, and today, we are most fortunate to have our own pioneer in Philip Graham, Jr., who founded this organization in 2012. His passion and stewardship to continue the protection and beautification of our parks system has been a major asset to our foundation and to our community. I cannot thank Phil enough for his nine years of leadership, and I am grateful for his continued dedication to aid the foundation and educate the public on our mission.
As many St. Pete residents and visitors have ventured outside to explore all our city has to offer (especially over the past 18 months), our waterfront parks have been busier than ever. It cannot be overstated how important our parks system is to St. Petersburg, and I am honored to work with this amazing group of individuals, whose focus is the preservation, enhancement and advocacy of our waterfront parklands.
Until next time, enjoy the parks, and please visit them with your family, friends and neighbors.
From the water’s edge,
Living Shoreline Restoration Project to begin at Lassing Park
Take a drive along Lassing Park and you will see that preparations are underway for the initial staging by Tampa Bay Watch and the City of St. Petersburg for Phase 1 of the Lassing Park Living Shoreline Restoration Project. The unusual objects pictured here and stacked at the north end of the park are oyster balls, which will be installed December 15th and 16th beginning at 9:00 a.m.
According to Bill Dahl, WPF Board Member and President of Old Southeast Neighborhood Association, additional project phases will occur in Spring and Summer of 2022, when protective shoreline grasses will be planted. All these events will include volunteer opportunities, so watch this website and the OSNE or Old Southeast Facebook pages for updates!
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!