Southside Greenway Plan History

A Historical Concept    A Modern Brand    A New Respect

This project is being developed in full compliance with the City’s Office of Sustainability & Resiliency (OSR) created to deliver progressive, sustainable policies, and  effective programs to address the city’s environmental, economic, and social challenges. The OSR works closely with the City Council, Health, Energy, Resiliency, and Sustainability (HERS) Committee, city departments, businesses, and the community to develop innovative environmental solutions that foster equity, vibrant communities, and shared prosperity.

Birth of Initial Plan

March 13, 2020, Bill Dahl, President of the Old Southeast Neighborhood Association, gave me  a fellow Old SE resident and USFSP professor’s (Tom Hallock) book Salt Creek Journal  to educate me regarding the Salt Creek surrounded by Salt Creek Marine District and feeding the Bayboro Harbor and its 8 important waterbodies within 6 square miles as a major component of the Middle Tampa Bay Watershed. Flowing Southeasterly connecting to Lake Maggiore, this was the historical way by water to reach Clam Bayou and what today is now Gulfport.

 

As the editor, Tom developed the Journal with the creative input from his many varied and passionate journalism student contributors. The support later by USFSP Center for Civic Engagement for a Faculty Course Development Grant then led to its publishing in 2016 and then to the founding of their not-for-profit: Friends of Salt Creek.org.

At that time there was an existing effort to support the development Marine Service Crafts job training center. As we are very quickly losing among our Silent Generation (born 1928-45) many of our marine service crafts people, we need to develop opportunites for our not only those youths within walking distance youth in the nearby neighborhoods of Bartlett Park and Old Southeast, but ALL of the Southside of Saint Petersburg.

 

Additionally, through neighborhood resources, a potential job training center for Wood Craftspeople was also being explored. Not only for custom marine interior boat finishing, but also for designing and building custom of the American Craftsman Furniture that hundreds of thousand visitors each year will soon be enjoying in Saint Petersburg’s American Craftsman Museum. We were in preliminary talks with a major national furniture manufacturing firm about such developing such an on-site project.

 

During this time period, City Council was considering Mayor Rick's Kriseman’s request for their approval of amendments to the existing CHHA zoning requirements thus eliminating the Salt Creek Marine District. Upon reading Tom's Journal and then visiting their website, we then chose to...

  • propose that the City at least carve out the Marine District.

  • create the non-profit Salt Creek Preserve in response to Tom’s personal plea for connection (p13) with others in the community for the primary purpose to restart the dialogue (15) on the concepts first developed in a 1923 proposal to the City of Saint Petersburg by the country’s then foremost American preeminent land planner, John Nolen.

 

We were NOT, however, proposing a completely new plan that would then require expensive expensive research and development by third-party consultants taking years to develop an appropriate concept tailored for our community. We chose instead to first determine what past steps had been taken by the City in its prior planning effort by following the wise advice of the City’s 2020 Vision plan delegates, including our now current 2021 mayor, the then City Counsel person Richard D. Kriseman, ESQ District 1:

          Any future planning exercises for the City of St. Petersburg must first begin by evaluating the City’s past planning efforts. St.                     Petersburg has a rich history of planning, as outlined in R. Bruce Stephenson's.....

    Visions of Eden: Environmentalism, Urban Planning and City Building in St. Petersburg, Florida, 1900-1995

Nolen through his sensitivity and creativity sought how to build a better community through finding nature in urban settings

John Nolen is a New Urbanist patron saint. It stands to follow that if the New Urbanism

is to fulfill the historic vision it has unearthed, the visionary plans Nolen produced in the

great laboratory of town and city building, as he called Florida, requires scrutiny.

John Nolen's basic land planning concepts became the basis upon which the foundation of our plan was built!

  1. Urban planning should be used to protect the natural environment.

  2. Besides satisfying the love of nature and the desire for outdoor life, a plan that more clearly echoes the landscape should set the pattern for the city’s future development.

  3. By setting aside scenic areas unsuited for buildings–for example floodplains and steep hillsides–a community could also protect important natural resources and make the urban fabric more aesthetically pleasing.

  4. A system of paths and parkways could connect public lands so that urban dwellers could enjoy the beauty and wonder of nature [sic] world.

  5. After laying out the park system, lands for industry, business, and public uses would then be designated based upon their function, subsequent use, and maintenance.

  6. Foremost among the functions of practical city planning, is to arrange so a city can live and do business there with the maximum of comfort and a minimum of cost.

  7. Planning the different components of an urban system around natural forms would result in utility and beauty going hand in hand and seeming virtually inseparable.

  8. American cities should follow the European practice of providing municipal improvements to benefit the entire public, not just the investors.

  9. The Old World presented an impressive array of public buildings, city squares and plazas, playgrounds, parks, parkways, and boulevards, art museums, and theaters all available to the citizenry.

  10. Nolen’s excursions to Europe convinced him that what he called collectivization was an indomitable historical force that had arisen in response to the urban and industrial revolutions. In modern urban society, collectivization conferred the planning powers local government needed to enhance the public life and protect the common welfare.

  11. Finally, he believed that besides giving urban dwellers an escape from the grind and fatigue of the day’s work, a beautiful and functional public realm helped to expand civic consciousness. (p45 Visions of Eden)  

We next reviewed the original Vision 2020 plan developed with public input for the City from former Mayor Rick Baker's plans  (11/5/01-1/2/10) and adopted (10/17/02) by City Council. This plan was a citizen-based visioning effort that created the desired image of Saint Petersburg for the next two decades. Included were the City Trails plan to completely transform the City's streets to attract bicycles, joggers, and those who enjoy the urban feel and scale of a walkable place. (P 147) The BlueWater Trails concept then also led to a kayak, canoe, and paddle-board trail system around our peninsular city. (P 145) Source: The Seamless City 

The City for these efforts thus then received many national awards as one of the country's safest cities for bicycling and pedestrian safety. Many other efforts in the City's commitment to improving where its citizens reside also led to recognization by the Florida Green Building Coalition (FGBC) in 2008 as the State of Florida's to earn a First Green City designation.

Building upon these prior efforts, we then reviewed our current Mayor Richard D. Kriseman’s series of well-designed studies and implemented projects. For example, the May 2019 Complete Streets plan strongly supported the potential value in developing neighborhood greenways. More importantly it and several other current plans, including the current potential Tropicana Field Redevelopment Planhave also yielded very valuable technical planning data required to develop a successful modern greenway plan by utilizing a fast-track planning process to connect existing City assets into a focused international recreational Urban Ecotourism brand.

This similar  process is currently being applied to a Rails-to-Trails developing project, the Baltimore Greenway Trails Network, a more comprehensive and time efficient approach to better meet specific needs of ALL city residents. Our resulting Southside Greenway plan will then be similar to the Atlanta Beltline or the Boston Emerald Necklace designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr. (America’s first landscape architect and John Nolen's professor at Harvard University's School of Landscape Architecture). 

 

Finally, an important potential result of our plan will be the possible future restoration and reclamation of the Salt Creek to then become not only a very important contributor to further improve the role of the Bayboro Harbor and thus protecting the Tampa Bay Estuary, but it will also assist in accelerating an overall improvement of the living conditions for the residents of Southside Saint Petersburg.

This improvement will be based upon a current poorly recognized need to finally demonstrate some long overdue respect not only for this area’s nature tropical environmental wonders, but also to ALL of the Southside residents themselves who have traditionally lived, worked, and played closest to the sources of environmental neglect and degradation caused to a great degree by their poor educational and economic conditions AND by a lack of proper political representation.

 

This long overdue environmental justice for the Southsidwill not only help to create a salve for the battered soul of our community, but it will also begin to establish a new modern and respected international URBAN ECOTOURISM  helping to erase 100 years of past negative connotations. 

If Salt Creek is acknowledged, if the creek is understood and respected, then local pride can latch to the mangrove roots to force an amendment to the status quo. 

Sewing Box, by Hannah Gorski, Salt Creek Journal, p43

The Community's Key Assets

  • the Pinellas Trail, a 45 mile bike or hike trail that connects in western Saint Petersburg intersecting with the City’s fantastic bike, trails, and park system

  • the Skyway Trail, a 9-mile round trip bike or hike trail connecting with the Pinellas Trail above and traveling South at the over scenic Skyway Bridge Fishing Pier Park

  • the new award winning St. Pete Pier & Waterfront Park

  • the culinary, gallery, arts, & shopping venues of Central Ave, Beach Drive, the Warehouse Arts District, & the Deuces Live District   

  • our internationally acclaimed collection of museums

  • the proposed Deuces Bridge IMIX Project (mixed use of housing & arts retail community) connecting to......

  • our proposed expanded Deuces Live Trail (22nd Street South) arriving at...

  • Dell Homes Park and the Boyd Hill Nature Preserve surrounding the beautiful Lake Maggiore with its 290 acre award-winning property featuring 6 miles of trails and boardwalks through a variety of habitats including hardwood hammocks, sand pine scrub, pine flat woods, willow marsh, swamp woodlands and its new Tomalin Campground  that can now truly bring both the City’s residents and it visitors together the people of our urban community and nature-in-the-raw without disturbing the balance of either.  

  • the Innovation District

  • the Bayboro Harbor

  • the Salt Creek Marine District

  • the Salt Creek Preserve that was in fact the historical way that the Southside's very first settlers traveled by canoe from the Bayboro Harbor through Bartlett Park Pond to Salt Lake (now Lake Maggiore) and on to the Clam Bayou in neighboring Gulfport.

Our First Steps

After researching the original intent of John Nolan’s plans for the development of Saint Petersburg, we then sought and received current input and suggestions for a reasonable new planning approach from the Philadelphia based Chariot Companies, a minority-owned, mission-based diversified social impact organization with core business platforms focused on revitalizing under-served communities throughout the United States established and directed led by John Henry, JD ’91:

  • Bucknell University with a Bachelor of Arts in History and Political Science receiving the Arthur Ashe, Jr. Scholar Athlete Award 

  • Football), Black Issues in Higher Education Sports Scholars Award, GTE All-Academic Team and All-Patriot League

  • Washington & Lee University School of Law with a Juris Doctor degree.

  • He served as Solicited Articles Editor for and had a Case Note published in the Journal on Civil Rights and Social Justice.

  • He successfully solicited Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas for an article on Civility. 

  • He also served as a Law-Clerk for the Office of Staff Attorney with the Third Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia, PA

He has shared with us their previous plan strategies and components that were used to successfully receive a unanimous vote to proceed (8-16-18) from the Shreveport, LA, City Council. Similar in size as Saint Petersburg, the city approved his firm’s plan to redevelop an existing country club that had deteriorated due to disinvestment and the deterioration of surrounding neighborhood. Shreveport has a 2018 population of nearly 200,000 verses 265,000 for Saint Petersburg (2018).

 

Their goal was that their $240 million development would connect the physical and digital realm to provide seamless access to unique services and amenities that would improve the convenience of daily life.

The project was considerably larger than ours would be. It was to include nearly 1 million square feet of commercial and residential space:​

  • State-of-the-art, semi-private, 9-Hole Executive Golf Course

  • Collection of restaurants and premier banquet facility=

  • Approximately 600 residences

  • New K-12 educational and vocational facility

  • A Chariot Labs K-12 STEM project

  • 20.5 acres of connected public open space

  • Ten miles of interconnected walking trail

  • One-hundred room smart hotel​

They estimated that 1,120 construction jobs and 200 permanent jobs will be created from the development.​

Current Status Update for the Shreveport Plan

Unfortunately, August 29, 2019, the firm had to withdraw its offer. Since Shreveport was a landlocked town, it was found that it did not possess the same type of a 15-20 year prior period of improving property values that we, as a waterfront-based city, have enjoyed. Their then current property appraisals would support NOT therefore support such a large project.

Learning from their recent Shreveport experience, Chariot Companies, upon their review of our community’s potential opportunities, then suggested an approach not as grand in scope as their past plan. They suggested focusing instead on better connecting and improving of our targeted area’s existing natural assets thus returning to John Nolen’s 1923 original conceptual plans while also reducing the necessity for excessive capital investments of taxpayers’ funds.

 

We therefore focused our attention upon maximizing the targeted existing assets Pinellas Peninsula.

Birth of the Southside Greenway

After using our initial research to begin developing our proposed map for our project, we then were very fortunate in receive some very valuable donated developmental planning assistance from David Barth, PhD, Barth & Associates, LLC. He had been a collaborating contributor to the Mayor's 2015 St. Petersburg Downtown Waterfront Master Plan and thus was quite aware of our community. In 2020, he had also just published his book Park And Recreation System Planning. Understanding the power of our two major established Bike Trails (Pinellas and Skyway), upon reviewing our proposed preserve map he then advised us to NOT to continue to concentrate upon establishing a preserve (Salt Creek) as we had originally intended. He felt that the community’s opportunity to attract national funding would be greater while instead promoting focusing the assemblance of the Pinellas Peninsular's broader existing assets into a greenway plan.

On November 18, 2020, we made a presentation of the revised Southside Greenway​ plan to Sharon Wright, AICP, LEED AP BD+C, ENV SP, City of St. Petersburg's Sustainability & Resiliency Director, who had not only worked with David on the Downtown Waterfront Master Plan, but while previously in private practice in Atlanta had also become quite familiar with the economic and social change results with the Atlanta Beltline plan development. On November 19, 2020, she then notified us of the City’s Bike/Ped Advisory Committee notification (November 19, 2020) that our conceived and developed Southside Greenway plan had now been listed as the number one out of ten county-wide priority projects in the Forward Pinellas Active Transportation Plan (in combination with the 18th Avenue South from 3rd Street to 35th Street). Though details such as funding timing or limits have not been established, there is a commitment from Forward Pinellas to fund and otherwise advance that list of ten projects. 

 

We then been granted the opportunity to begin in earnest to develop our in hopes of assisting to developing a new level of City-wide RESPECT and rethinking of the Southside by assisting in:

 

  • protecting and enhancing during these still COVID-19 sensitive times our fragile ecological resources while also providing improved recreation, fitness, and transportation opportunities such as walking, biking, and paddling, etc. in support of the City’s Healthy St. Pete initiative.

  • the development and completion of a conceptual plan unifying nearly two decades of prior funding and creative efforts in the developing of much of the excellent required research required to now assist in meeting many of the Neighborhood Greenways goals in the City’s Complete Streets Implementation May 2019 Plan.

  • ensuring that the Salt Creek and Lake Maggiore ecosystem [becomes] a centerpiece of the natural environment in [Southside] Saint Petersburg. This Implementation Plan envisions a multi-use trail circumnavigating around the greater Lake Maggiore and Boyd Hill Preserve area, with connections to the east and downtown via Salt Creek, and connections to west including the Skyway Trail and Gulfport via 26th Avenue South. The loop and connecting spurs would be created by a variety of facility types including paved pathways and on-street routes, with a common theme being both non-motorized access and ecological restoration. (p 77 City’s Complete Streets Implementation May 2019 Plan.) 

  • developing our International Urban Ecotourism Brand by focusing up the creation of  a branded pedestrian-biking and water-based activity linkages connecting our internationally renowned museums and vast collection of culinary, arts, and unique shopping venues in the City’s Central Avenue District, Warehouse Arts  District, and Tampa Bay waterfront St. Pete Pier areas while also… 

  • ...most importantly improving in an attentive and timely fashion our most direct North to South Deuces Live Trail (22nd Street South), linking these urban areas through the exciting Deuces Live District to our unique tropical equivalent of NY City’s Central Park: the Boyd Hill Nature Preserve surrounding Lake Maggiore adjoining the Dell Holmes Park and leading to the Salt Creek on its way to our valuable Bayboro Harbour and  Innovation District.