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Growth brought need for complex

Letters to the Editor
Published February 13, 2007


Re: Hikers weigh ballfield effect Feb. 10, story

Concerning the controversy over leasing 35-plus acres to the East Lake Youth Sports Association, there are several things that puzzle me. But first, I want to preface this by saying I am very much in favor of environmental conservation and am concerned that the entire state of Florida is in an environmental crisis as a result of overdevelopment.

Development is the very reason this expansion of the sports complex is sorely needed. For the last few years, developers have carved pieces out of the edges of the Brooker Creek Preserve, building family-friendly homes. As the homes have filled up with these families, there became a need to find a location to give the children a place for extracurricular activities.

As a result, parents joined together to organize the East Lake Youth Sports Association and to build facilities where area children could be involved in athletics. It is admirable that this entire effort is a result of volunteers giving their time, energy and funds.

As the East Lake community and the surrounding area continue to grow, there is an obvious need for more sports fields. The county has certainly encouraged this growth to add to the tax base. While all this has been going on, there should have been some discussion on the issue of accommodating the residents' needs. I would like to think county commissioners gave it some thought.

I was surprised to learn that the acreage in question is even considered part of the Brooker Creek Preserve at all. It is not connected to the main preserve. Development continues to encroach on this area from nearly all sides.

Who is thinking about the kids' needs in all of this? What about the lease agreement that the county entered into with the sports association? Now many people want to cry "do over"? Even the kids in need of the additional sports facilities know that isn't considered ethical behavior.

Of course, the wetlands portion of the area needs to be preserved in the best possible manner. However, that hasn't appeared to be much of a concern in other areas. A prime example is the "retention pond" behind the Boot Ranch shopping center. The condition of that "pond" is appalling. Who was the official who approved such a design?

The concern for the animal life in the woods should be tempered with the fact that most species mentioned have already managed to adapt to suburban environments. Deer, rabbits and coyotes are prime examples. The osprey in the area have already adapted. Although I can't speak for all of the types of birds, the warblers, wrens and red-shouldered hawks can be found in many suburban areas, including our Bayside Meadows development in Oldsmar. Wood storks can be found living well in many retention ponds, including the one in the Cornerstone office complex on Tampa Road just west of McMullen-Booth Road.

East of the sports complex on the north side of Keystone Road across from the main preserve is a very large field purported to also be a part of Brooker Creek Preserve. It has puzzled me to see cattle grazing in a nature preserve. It occurred to me that pines could be planted there to replace the one lost to the sports complex, giving the trees and the species of vascular plants a place to flourish.

It also occurred to me that this would be a simple compromise for all concerns. I hope level heads will prevail and a sensible solution will be worked out.

Judith Black, Oldsmar

 

Teacher should get a museum

Regarding the obituary for Mrs. Dorothy Maxwell Thompson, who passed away Jan. 22 and whose funeral was Feb. 2: When driving home from the funeral I thought about her contributions to our school, our county and our country.

One phrase in her obituary came up in my mind: "She was a PE teacher."

Let me set the record straight! She was not a "PE teacher"! I called her that in a faculty meeting when I was principal of Clearwater Comprehensive Junior High School. She immediately informed me and the rest of the faculty that she was a "Physical Education teacher."

One had to use proper language when speaking to her or about the subjects she taught. Believe me, I always used the correct term when speaking with her about her subject and her department. She had an impeccable command of the English language and expected teachers, staff and students to use correct grammar all the time.

However, let me say that her picture on the funeral bulletin showed her wearing a dress with African symbols on it.

It reminded me of her great work for the rights of African-Americans. She was very proud of her battle with the school system to have black teachers paid as much as white teachers.

She always said that she was transferred from Pinellas High School in Clearwater to an elementary school in St. Petersburg because of her battle for equal pay. She eventually was transferred back to Pinellas High School.

She was a lover of African-American history and a collector of books and artifacts pertaining to that history. Her collection eventually became a museum, which was opened to share the history and contributions of African-Americans. Sadly, the museum closed when she was physically unable to care for it.

It would seem fitting that the city of Clearwater and St. Petersburg College work together to create a Dorothy Maxwell Thompson African-American Museum.

Why am I proposing this? Because she had spent countless hours and dollars to collect the books and artifacts so that the present and future generations would be able to see the vicissitudes and triumphs of African-Americans. The community needs to be able to access this treasured collection.

Let me remind everyone that she died just six days after Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday and her funeral was the day before the 137th anniversary of the passing of the 15th Amendment, which gave African-Americans the right to vote.

When she began sharing her knowledge of African-American history during February, it was during Black History Week. Now, there is a whole month dedicated to Black History.

Will there be a museum dedicated to her and her historical collection?

Robert J. Safransky, Pinellas Park

 

Area needs space for recreation 

Re: East Lake Youth Sports Complex expansion

The nonprofit, all-volunteer East Lake Youth Sports Association is proposing to build playing fields on a portion of 38 acres adjacent to its existing complex. These playing fields are badly needed, as our sports programs have grown as quickly as the entire North Pinellas area has grown.

Two things are undeniable: There is a need for more active recreational space in North Pinellas. And there is no other option; there is no other land available for playing fields.

As president of East Lake Little League, one of the sports groups that uses the ELYSA complex, I can tell you firsthand that we are struggling to meet the space needs of our more than 400 baseball and softball players. The addition of more fields will allow us to serve even more children, not only in learning the sport, but also in learning the critical life lessons of responsibility, sportsmanship and the importance of being a good citizen.

I believe we can achieve a balance in our community between the preservation of natural land and the importance of providing recreation for our youngest citizens. The 38-acre parcel in question is quite small when compared to the 8,500 acres of the Brooker Creek Preserve.

Remember, all that land was paid for and is maintained with millions of dollars of taxpayer money. The existing ELYSA sports complex is maintained completely with player fees and donations.

So after all the Environmental Science Forum discussions and the Pinellas County Commission work sessions, the bottom line is the question of whether additional playing fields on this land will irreparably harm the other acres of the preserve. They won't.

But will additional playing fields on this land benefit more than 1,400 children (and more if the fields are built), and in turn benefit Pinellas County? Definitely. When all is said and done, what is really more important?

I hope the Pinellas County Commission will look at the big picture, at what's best for Pinellas County, when they vote for the change in land use designation for this land and allow our children to play ball.

Tony Gisonni President, East Lake Little League

 

Dogs need to be free, not confined 

Re: Fed up with dog entitlements letter by Fern McPherson, Feb. 11

McPherson writes, "They (dogs) should be confined to their owners' yards, instead of being walked in the local neighborhoods."

I pray that no dog has ever been subject to being owned by Ms. McPherson. Perhaps she thinks dogs are a species of tree. Hey, that's where most of my trees are "confined."

Rebecca Brittain, Clearwater