Sunday, July 10, 2011

"All that the sun shines on

is beautiful, so long as it is wild."

John Muir
Atlantic Monthly, January 1869

My Serenova findings:

The other side of the lake

Two structures that I first found on an aerial map- about 2.5mi out

They are (were?) wired for electricity

Lovely open land

Through the cypress trees

 Secret river

Friday, July 8, 2011

Serenova Adventures

Somewhere in the 6,533 acres that comprises the Serenova Tract o f J. B. Starkey Wilderness Preserve is a lake.  Okay, there are many lakes, but I am looking for a specific one.  I had seen pictures of it- sprawling, lily pads covering the periphery, and a pier jutting in on one side.  From aerial maps, I knew that is was on the eastern side of the trail and about two and a half miles out, without any wrong turns.  Today, my goal was to find it during my five mile run.

The morning was foggy.  The usual yellow-green of the summer was heavily clouded in grey.  The fog was so dense that I could not see but a few meters ahead at times, so finding a body of water was going to be difficult.  I kept running southwest, feeling myself going lower and lower.  All of those environmental science classes were going to come in handy.  I know my Florida ecosystems.  It had to be around there somewhere. 

Then, out of nowhere, I found something completely unexpected in a wilderness park.

A chimney.

Surrounded by a wire fence with signs warning park visitors not to trespass, the stone chimney was a marked change against the natural elements of the park.  The preservationist in me had many questions and a few miles to think about them.

How old is the chimney?  When was the structure destroyed?  How was it destroyed?  Who owned the building?  What is currently being done to preserve the chimney?  Are any archaeological digs planned?

As I did my own little survey of the site around the edge of the fence, I caught a glassy reflection through the trees in the distance.  The lake!  My trail sleuthing had paid off.

Sometimes even extensive Google research does not produce answers, and this is one of those cases.  All I know is that this would have been quite a beautiful place to live.

Maybe one day I will find the answers to my questions.  I should contact the West Pasco Historical Society.  Someone has to know something.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Memorial at Brooker Creek

It was just past seven in the morning and the gates to Brooker Creek Preserve were open, welcoming visitors to another summer morning at the park.  I decided to run the two mile paved loop in the front of the park before I took to the trails for for miles.  Making my way towards the park entrance, I passed the small fenced area surrounded by native Florida plants.  Stopping my watch, I stepped from the road and onto the rose colored stones.  This beautiful, humble spot is where Margaret "Peggy" Park is remembered.

Photo from Southeastern Outdoors

I discovered the plaque last week, but I did not know Peggy Park.  All I knew was what I read.  She worked for the Florida Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission.  She was young.  She died protecting the land she loved. 

Today, I passed her memorial, and more informed, I thanked her for what she gave to the land.  I can not think of too many other ways to die that are as noble as this.

Peggy grew up in Columbus, Ohio.  She loved animals: cats, dogs, fish, gerbils, wolves.  She decided that she was going to be a park ranger from and early age, and that is exactly what she did.  After graduating from Ohio State University with a bachelor of science degree in natural resources and wildlife management,
Peggy became a Pinellas County wildlife officer.  From 1982 until a fateful day in 1984 she protected precious land in Pinellas county.

On the night of December 13, 1984, Peggy approached two suspicious young men who ultimately had a stolen hand gun.  One man, nineteen year old Martin Grossman, was on probation and afraid of going to prison.  Peggy refused to let him go, but the large man overpowered the petite officer.  Grossman and seventeen year old Thayne Taylor beat Peggy on the head with her own metal flashlight twenty to thirty times.  Peggy fired her gun once, but Grossman then shot her in the head with it.  In the final moments of her life, she had the strength to call "I'm shot!" into her radio.  Peggy died.

Her memorial is peaceful, like the land that surrounds it.  No trace of struggle or senseless violence remain.  On an early morning run, one may pass her memorial and not take notice, not realize what was given in order for this land to be protected today.

Taylor was sentenced to seven years in prison for third degree murder.  He was released after two years and ten months.  Grossman was to sit on death row for twenty-five years.  On February 16, 2010, at the age of forty-five, Martin Grossman was executed by lethal injection for the murder of Peggy Park.

Twenty-six years later, Peggy is physically a part of the land she loved.  Her ashes were scattered by helicopter in what is now Brooker Creek Preserve so that she could forever be with eagles that she watched over.

After 25 Years
Wildlife Officer Peggy Park
A Fitting Memorial
Grossman Execution for Peggy Park Murder