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Abercrombie Park expansion promotes education and recreation

Jaymi Butler

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Abercrombie Park
Abercrombie Park is one of the City of St. Petersburg's four archaeological sites. The park expansion adds walking trails, picnic areas and a boardwalk.

Visitors to Abercrombie Park now have a lot more space to explore.

A newly unveiled expansion has added 2.4 acres of uplands and 1.2 acres of submerged land to the park, located on Park Street North, in the Jungle Terrace neighborhood on the west side of St. Petersburg.

“It’s a very rare day that you’re able to add over two acres of parkland in a built-out city,” said Mike Jefferis, the city’s leisure services administrator. “This is certainly a legacy project and we are excited to add it into our system and protect it in perpetuity.”

Plans for the expansion date back to 2015, when the city purchased the property from local attorney Evelyn Kuttler. Since then, the St. Petersburg Parks and Recreation Department has been working to connect the Abercrombie Park boardwalk with the Kuttler property. The existing home and dock were removed and exotic plants were replaced with native trees and plants.

Visitors to the park will be able to enjoy picnic areas, walking trails and a boardwalk. They’ll also have the opportunity to learn about the historical significance of the park, which now includes a Native American midden (shell mound). The mound is considered to be part of the larger Bayshore Home Site Complex, a pre-Columbian village occupied by Native Americans between AD 140 and 565, during the early Weeden Island period. 

Former St. Pete city council member Charlie Gerdes said the land was once home to the Tocabaga Indians and the Timucua tribe. Historians believe it once served as a mint where currency was created, based on artifacts collected from the site. The currency tied to the property has been found in the panhandle, indicating trade being done across the Gulf of Mexico.

“This is a big deal for the City of St. Pete,” Gerdes said.

Abercrombie Park will also be used as a specimen property, according to Jeffreis, meaning that if there’s a native plant found in the park that isn’t found anywhere else in the area, “we’ll try to get it to grow here.”

Jeffreis envisions the park as a destination for ecotourism and education. “We want this to be a living, breathing museum, not just for the artifacts here on the ground but for the plants on the property as well,” he said.

Mayor Rick Kriseman praised the park expansion and hopes it will attract more visitors.

“Abercrombie Park is one of those hidden gems not everyone seems to know about,” he said. “This really is a special moment for all of us in St. Pete.”

Jefferis discussed Abercombie Park and its expansion with Deputy Mayor Kanika Tomalin on the inaugural episode of her Catalyst podcast Just Getting Started.

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