The Sassy Sandpiper: Get Thee to the Greenway
By M.R. Wilson, TB Reporter
Wandering is what is done best at Lealman’s Eden
On 46th Avenue North between a wholesale nursery and a mobile home community is one of Pinellas County’s best-kept secrets. I discovered this gem by happy accident after moving to St. Petersburg a few years ago.
Okay, technically it’s Lealman, an unincorporated, “census designated place (CDP)”. Doesn’t that sound clinical, like some dreaded diagnosis?
But I wander.
And wandering is what I do best in Joe’s Creek Greenway Park.
My schoolmates at Westgate Elementary talked about Joe’s Creek, but I never ventured there myself. It sounded wild and mysterious — like a place where youngsters could get into serious trouble and have boatloads of fun doing it. You can read a great story about the area’s rich history here: http://www.sptimes.com/News/122301/SouthPinellas/This_old_creek.shtml
A smidge longer than a mile, the walking/biking path—including bridges and scenic overlooks—encircles a lake where the creek’s headwaters widen. Welcome to the urban wilderness.
At my feet, the humble dandelion. A single, smallish plant with one yellow flower shining like a beacon in the mottled light. One downy seed head, which I gently pinched off with a murmur of thanks. I love these nearly eradicated “weeds,” and hope to have a dandelion patch soon.
A roseate spoonbill glances up briefly as siblings bike-race by; equally unconcerned are the great blue heron, the snowy egret and a pair of American coots, who exchange chalky cries. A flock of white ibis drifts toward a muddy shore, their calls ever reminding me of a kazoo band.
The brisk westerly wind ruffles the lake’s surface and plays each tree and shrub: the pines whispery-sad, palmettos lightly percussive, bamboo clackety-clacking. I’ll miss the migratory warblers’ accompaniment by month’s end. Tiny, heard but often unseen, they return in September.
It is spawning season for bass. Males (bucks) scoop out craterlike nests or beds. The girls show up later. Soft-shelled turtles with their huge gentle eyes swim peacefully with peninsula cooters.
No alligators in sight today, but they’re around. Some darned good size, too. “Respectable lizards,” my uncle calls them.
A broad field opens, perfect for soccer and kite running, baseball and softball, dodge ball and picnics and loafing, generally. The hopeful pastel buildings of Duval Park stretch to the north, just off 54th Avenue. Some Broach School kids mill around, not quite enthusiastic about a game of capture-the-flag their coach is trying to organize. He smiles, wisely patient. “They just don’t want to listen today.”
I think they’ve got what I’ve got: an early case of Spring Fever. Or maybe they’re listening to something else, something out there on the wind. Something primal and wild.
A vigorous older couple power-walks past me, offering salutations. A kinship binds the regulars at Joe’s Creek Greenway Park as flora and fauna thrive in fragile balance with humans. Here is “Lealman’s Eden.”
Before March goes out like a lamb, I’m bringing my kite.
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