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Tablet honors memory of 'martyr for conservation'

A Brooker Creek Preserve site memorializes a slain wildlife officer.

By THERESA BLACKWELL
Published April 24, 2007


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EAST LAKE - Wildlife Officer Margaret E. "Peggy" Park has no grave site; her ashes were scattered by helicopter over eagles' nests in Pinellas County.

But now, a raised memorial plaque along the roadway to the Brooker Creek Preserve Environmental Education Center honors her memory. There, near the site of her death, is a place for reverently considering how much a woman with a wide smile gave up to protect that land and the creatures on it.

Park was murdered on the job as she patrolled the Brooker Creek area in 1984.

"We certainly want to honor this woman," said Bruce Rinker, Pinellas County's Environmental Management division director, "because in many ways, she was a martyr for conservation."

Park, 26, an officer with the Florida Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission, was patrolling alone the evening of Dec. 13, 1984. Near what is now the roadway leading to the preserve's education center, she approached two men in a van who looked suspicious.

Martin Edward Grossman, who was then 20 and more than twice Park's size, overpowered her and killed her with her own gun. He remains on Florida's death row. The other man, Thayne Taylor, then 17, served two years and 10 months before he was released into a supervised community-release program.

Park died just west of the new memorial, north of a clump of oak trees just outside the preserve property. It's the second monument to her. Years ago, the county named a nature trail for the fallen officer at John Chesnut Sr. Park in East Lake.

On Friday at Brooker Creek Preserve, Scott Coulter, the county's preserve supervisor of north county operations, worked with maintenance department workers John Urban and Tom Reed at the memorial, installing such native plants as Muhly grass, Walter's viburnum and wax myrtle that will produce seeds for wildlife.

A Gulf fritillary butterfly flitted by. Earlier, a rabbit, a deer and three fawns grazed a few yards away as the men worked.

"I think it turned out pretty good, guys," Coulter said as he carefully cleaned stray mulch off the marker. "I would imagine tonight, the deer will be out looking at this."

Theresa Blackwell can be reached at tblackwell@sptimes.com or 727 445-4170.

[Last modified April 24, 2007, 00:13:59]


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