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The Sassy Sandpiper: The Power of Parks

Sassy Sandpiper | Parks | Raymond Neri Park

There are places in this world where you can find peace and beauty.

By M.R. WILSON, Columnist, Tampa Bay Reporter

As we trudge drearily onward through the Covid-19 pandemic, there is respite to be found in patches of urban wilderness, our county parks. There we can reconnect with a simpler order of things and touch a part of ourselves often deprived of care by the demands of life in the 21st Century.

I am fortunate to live within walking distance of Raymond H. Neri Community Park [4303 46th Ave. N, Lealman]. In less than 10 minutes, I’m surrounded by lush green foliage that shelters from the blistering Florida sun, provides habitat for the feathered and furred and thrumming insect life, and pours vital oxygen into the air.

Joe’s Creek meanders through the park forming lakes and little lagoons teeming with life. You might hear the belch of a pig frog or the bellow of an alligator if you’re especially lucky. Ospreys and belted kingfishers patrol the airspace above the water and drop soundlessly and with deadly precision to snag a tasty meal just below the surface. Herons, egrets and roseate spoonbills wade gently through the shallows. The trees are filled with birdsong. A flock of white ibises might stroll ahead of you onto what’s affectionately known as the Turtle Bridge.

No wonder this place is called “Lealman’s Eden.”

Sassy Sandpiper | Parks | Raymond Neri Park

When you’re about to climb the walls with cabin fever, doing your best to comply with precautionary measures against contracting the Covid-19 virus, you can always find solace in a park.

People seem to automatically distance socially and often wear masks. Water, trees, birds and butterflies are natural tranquilizers. We need to connect with wild places, as more and more scientific studies suggest.

During yesterday’s morning walk, I was pleased to come upon volunteers from Keep Pinellas Beautiful, an organization with a mission “to conserve and beautify our natural environment by means of community engagement and education.” They were busy trimming shrubbery and raking up debris in the garden area by the public restrooms.

Sassy Sandpiper | Parks | Raymond Neri Park

Organizer Stephanie Ellington said KPB’s volunteers also work at the Broach School’s community garden in the Lealman Exchange. To learn more about Keep Pinellas Beautiful, contact Ms. Ellington: or (727) 533-0402.

If you can’t make it to one of the county’s parks, you might find the next best thing by visiting and joining any of the several groups on Facebook. You’ll find beautiful photos, helpful tips and lively commentary from favorites like Boyd Hill, Brooker Creek and Crescent Lake, to name only a few. Friends of Raymond H. Neri Community Park can be found by clicking here

Sassy Sandpiper | Parks | Raymond Neri Park



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