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

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