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!
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.”