A very sad update on Boyd Hill Nature Preserve, which I visited last week; described in my last post. Three days after my visit, all five of the park employees/rangers were canned by Mayor Bill Foster of St. Pete. My friend Hermann (in the photo below in my previous blog) is forced into retirement after 30 years with the park system there.
This is an extremely poor and short-sighted solution to city budget woes. It will not save money; in fact cost more--told to me from other experts in the museum field who have seen this before in other places around the country. Without further comment from myself, I will show instead comments from the Tampa and St. Pete newspapers:
“I was shocked to discover that the city of St. Petersburg has decided to remove five full-time rangers from their positions at the Boyd Hill Nature Preserve. Some of these rangers have more than 20 years of experience at the park and bring to its care a wealth of knowledge, essential for the maintenance of the park and vital to the environmental education of its visitors.”
“Boyd Hill Nature Preserve is one of the city's most valuable treasures. Located just minutes from downtown, the park features a wide range of native Floridian habitats, and a rich diversity of wildlife, both flora and fauna. People from around the world come to Boyd Hill, to bird-watch and enjoy the preserve's unique habitat and wildlife. It is a wonderful place to take a walk, to take pictures of birds or alligators, and to enjoy an oasis of calm in the midst of the city.”
“The decision to replace full-time, committed and experienced rangers with mostly part-time workers strikes me as enormously shortsighted. While I understand that budget shortfalls necessitate some changes in city government and programs, the extent of the cuts at Boyd Hill are drastic and unwarranted, and the short-term savings in worker benefits from these cuts cannot outweigh the long-term losses to this important resource that will follow if it is not cared for properly.”
Nathan Andersen, St. Petersburg
“Environmental Education is an absolute must for children today. In a great book published a few years back "The Last Child in the Woods", the author talked about the disconnect that urban children have with the world around them. The term he used was "Nature Deficit Disorder". Boyd Hill is a jewel surrounded by the most crowded county in the state of Florida. I walked the trails back in the 1950's with my dad and I am proud to say that my association with Boyd Hill has continued to this day. The rangers at BHNP have conducted many educational experiences over the years that have helped both children and their parents develop an understanding of our world beyond the concrete. All but one of the rangers have 15+ years at BHNP and perform many functions, both educational, interpretive, protection, and management. The city needs to reconsider this move and find a better way to save money. I have been part of the Summer Nature Camps for 17 years at Boyd Hill, and know well its value!”
“…The issue here is what actions will lead to the wise stewardship of the nature preserve. The rangers, with their wealth of experience and knowledge, are well-suited to manage the park. I know that Greg Coston saves the city hundreds of dollars each season by working in a greenhouse to grow landscaping plants from seed. Then, he directed scores of volunteers in planting the flowers and shrubs while also educating them about using native plants which save water. He has also taught children about gardening, mentored many students with their scout and community service projects, and gave tours to people who come from around the world to see the preserve. Many people have begun volunteering (again, free labor for the city) because of the community created by the rangers. The people are calling for a revision of this decision--please mayor foster, listen!”
History Buff wrote:
“Another ranger, Hermann Trappman, not one to blow his own horn, is considered to be one of the top historical/scientific illustrators in the state. He devoted countless hours studying, then interpreting the park. This Saturday he will be offering docent training to volunteers at the new Tampa Bay History Center. He creates powerful artwork that is in demand by museums and publishers all over the country, e.g. Science. He helped create the Tusks: Ice Age Florida exhibit for the Florida Museum of Natural History. Because of his close relationship with scholars & scientists, he was able to put together the only exhibit on the history of free black settlements in Florida (1738-1848) for Boyd Hill Nature Preserve. At one time he worked with youth in trouble sentenced to do community service at the park, inspiring them to change their lives. When he gave his last lecture at the park in December, there was a standing room only crowd with half the audience being students from a local college.”
I think that these comments from people who enjoy the park, speak better than anything I could say. When I visited last weekend, I would have to say that it was a top-rated nature center and park. Worthy even for application as an accredited museum by the American Museum Association. Unfortunately, the city management is determined to ruin it.