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With Just Getting Started, Deputy Mayor and City Administrator Dr. Kanika Tomalin is “telling the St. Pete story” through one-on-one conversations with change-makers. With many exciting plans and projects on the horizon, St. Petersburg’s upward trajectory remains strong. “So much has been done, but here’s the secret: We’re just getting started.”

06/13/2020 | Episode 01 | 21:30

Just Getting Started: A bright future for St. Pete's beautiful parks system

A bright future for St. Pete's beautiful parks system

On the inaugural episode of Just Getting Started, Dr. Tomalin is joined by Mike Jefferis, the City's Leisure Services Administrator, for a lively discussion of the St. Petersburg parks system. “I really thought that I knew everything there was to know about St. Pete," says Tomalin, who was born and raised here. "Then when I came to work for the City, I was just blown away, particularly by the richness and robust nature of our parks.” The talk then turns to the upcoming expansion of Boyd Hill Nature Preserve, 245 mostly-wild acres on Lake Maggiore in Old Southeast. Leisure Services has added family campsites, extended several trails and is constructing as new visitor center and ranger station at the 31st Street entrance. They also discuss the recent acquisition of 2.1 acres adjacent to Abercrombie Park, the extensive greenspace at the new St. Pete Pier, the Campbell Park skatepark, and the park system's immeasurable contributions to Dr. Tomalin's Healthy St. Pete initiative.

Key Insights

  • Today's guest: Mike Jefferis, the City of St. Petersburg's Leisure Services Administrator.
  • At approximately seven miles, St. Petersburg's downtown waterfront is the third largest in North America.
  • During economic downturns, Jeffers says, or under pressure from development, many communities have seen their parkland decrease. In St. Petersburg, it has been the opposite.
  • The growth of city parks, according to Tomalin, is happening because citizens not only insist on it, they’re helping – as with the recent home sale for the Abercrombie Park expansion.
  • Jefferis praises the nonprofit Friends of Boyd Hill Nature Preserve, which has been helping, and working with, the City - with the same genuine passion for the preserve - for years.
  • Tomalin recalls a recent walk through "beautifully curated" Pioneer Park, which is maintained by neighborhood residents.
  • Jefferis says that attendance at city parks has been strong during the COVID pandemic; there have been complaints they've been too crowded. This is understood to be a good thing.
  • The community skatepark at Campbell Park, in the heart of the city's African American community, was historically underutilized. Today, it is being crowded with diversity - age, race and gender. It's one of the largest skateparks in the southeastern U.S.
  • The City is taking over a fenced DOT lot under I-375 to create a greenspace that will serve as an entrance to the business corridor.

"We know that if we don’t create and foster future advocates of natural lands, then we’re not going to have anything into the future."

"Boyd Hill is a nature preserve in the middle of a built-out city. One of my favorite places in the preserve is standing on the island overlooking the lake, the preserve, nature, and then you see the backdrop of the city."

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About the host

Dr. Kanika Tomalin is a thought leader, policy-maker, community ambassador, and health advocate.

As the first African-American, female Deputy Mayor and City Administrator of one of Florida’s largest cities, Dr. Kanika Tomalin is a role model for women from all walks of life and an advocate for innovative policies, equitable community revitalization, healthy families, at-risk youth and education.

Her signature initiative, Healthy St. Pete, which launched in 2014, has made community health a priority and impacts the lives of thousands of Sunshine City residents. By creating access to healthy food options, implementing free fitness zones in city parks and adding resources for individuals and families to make healthy living easier – Dr. Tomalin has made a tangible difference.

Dr. Tomalin’s understanding of the critical role health plays as a determinant of overall quality of life was shaped prior to her career in the public sector. She quickly climbed the ranks in the healthcare industry, most recently serving as the regional vice president of External Affairs for the Bayfront Health Network and director of Strategy for Health Management Associates’ 23-hospital Florida Group.

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