This article represents the opinion of the editorial board of the Tampa Bay Times.
Save Klosterman Forest. Here’s to a good cause, citizen participation – and timely help from Tallahassee. This month, the Joint Legislative Budget Committee awarded Pinellas County $2.5 million to purchase 14 acres on W Klosterman Road, which is one of the last 1% of original brush remaining. in the county. For years, the West Klosterman Preservation Group, a nonprofit made up of neighbors and supporters of the land, has raised $544,000 through online campaigns, beer crawls, signage events and other efforts to save the property from a real estate developer’s bulldozer. The school system purchased the land, which is home to threatened or endangered plant and animal species, but never developed it. Interested developers stepped up, as did local activists, who formed the nonprofit and asked the school board for time. It wasn’t the easiest civic effort, but the public interest was clear. Everyone involved should be proud to have achieved this result.
Get crushed. Pinellas County could soon be one of the first in Florida to ban smoking on its beaches. County commissioners have shown support for a ban following a new state law that allows counties and municipalities to restrict smoking on public beaches and parks. The ban would prohibit smoking on county-controlled beach sand and dunes, but not on adjacent land such as grassy areas and campgrounds. It would apply to county beach parks — Fort De Soto, Sand Key and Fred Howard — and beach access parks co-managed by the county and municipalities. It’s a good idea; Petersburg City Council is expected to vote soon on its own citywide ban on beaches and parks. The environmental group Keep Pinellas Beautiful claims that cigarette butts are the number 1 trash on the beach. They are also a danger to children and wildlife and a nuisance to people nearby. Beachgoers will always have places to smoke (how about your own car?). Enough with public spaces being used as rubbish dumps.
A memory maker. St. Petersburg’s Morean Arts Center’s Memory Morning program is another reminder of the cultural fabric that enriches life in Tampa Bay. As Lane DeGregory of the Tampa Bay Times reported, the program began about a year ago after a woman at a senior center was looking for things to do with her husband, who has dementia. The event offers free tours of the Chihuly Collection for dementia patients and their caregivers, which includes a presentation and an art project. Thanks to a grant from the Pasco-Pinellas Inc. Regional Agency on Aging, 54 people have already participated in tours. Participating spouses said they were grateful to have their husbands home, but the hour of respite is a welcome break from full caregiving and sometimes loneliness. This program is a wonderful use of the region’s artistic resources and a model of how institutions of all kinds can give back. Sign up at www.moreanartscenter.org/accessibility or call 727-822-7872.
Hillsborough School Sizing. It’s no surprise that many parents and homeowners in Hillsborough County oppose sweeping changes to school boundaries. After all, neighborhood schools are a treasure; they build community identity, add property value, and provide a public resource (who provides these shelters during hurricane season?). But with dozens of campuses underutilized, the Hillsborough County School District faces some tough decisions. That’s why he hired a consultant to review boundaries and enrollment, as a first step for the district to consider a range of options, which could include consolidations and school closures. The comments parents offered in the first round of comments this week provide insight into the controversy that is only likely to grow in the months to come. But it’s a necessary step for Hillsborough to better align its resources with its needs and redirect savings toward student success.
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Editorials are the corporate voice of the Tampa Bay Times. Members of the Editorial Board are Editorial Editor Graham Brink, Sherri Day, Sebastian Dortch, John Hill, Jim Verhulst and Chairman and CEO Conan Gallaty. Follow @TBTimes_Opinion on Twitter for more opinionated news.