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Re-introducing our sustainability column

in town square

I am Laura Grimme’ McCullough and I’ve lived in the area since 1998. I’ve raised three children here and have been an active volunteer for many of those years. I’m also a Registered Nurse in a local hospital.

I have has always been interested in sustainability, but these issues went from the back to the front burner when my first granddaughter was born. Suddenly, the future wasn’t something far off; it was here, now. I chose to become an even stronger role model to my grandchildren and hopefully, make a difference for yours as well. I’m involved with Indivisible Safety Harbor, a political action group,  but this forum will be used strictly for sustainability concerns. 

Being passionate about our beautiful community, state, country, and planet, I write to share information, encourage positive actions, and strengthen our relationships so that all future generations will continue to enjoy what we continue to work hard to protect. Please look for my articles in future installments. Check back often for more helpful tips on sustainability.

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Meade

Costa Rican children receiving new shoes.
Costa Rican children receiving new shoes. (Photo/Café Vino Tinto)

Shoes for Kids: From Safety Harbor to Costa Rica

in town square

Tucked away on the side of a commercial building and adjacent to a parking lot is a charming little coffee shop that has become a favorite spot for Safety Harbor locals.  Café Vino Tinto recently celebrated their third anniversary and are planning to move to a larger location next spring.

Café Vino Tinto, 737 Main Street, opened in 2016 and has expanded from their original, basic walk-up window. They now have a covered patio, seating among the trees, and an indoor air conditioned dining area. The walk-up window is still where you order lattes or a cuppa Joe, but now waffles and frittatas are available Thursday through Sundays. They have proven to be customer favorites with waffle flavors like Cornbread and Wild Blueberry or Lemon Chiffon Cream. Protein Bars and sweets to go are also on the menu. The fresh roasted coffee is a flavorful medium roast developed over years of trial and error.

The café was an unintended side effect of a business transaction entered into by local resident, former mayor, and real estate lawyer Kent Runnells. Runnells has travelled to Costa Rica for years for fishing and boating trips. In 2008, while hiking with a friend, he happened upon a coffee farm in the Tarrazu Region south of San Jose and was struck by its beautiful setting. They learned the farm was for sale and decided to purchase the 17 acre operation. One of the views from the farm was of a high waterfall that the locals say “flows like red wine.” The name of the café came from the image of that waterfall and the bagged coffee is labelled The Waterfall Coffee.

The existing farmers continue to operate the farm and Runnells spent several years learning about the region, the coffee business, and the art of roasting. For his share of the concern, he took payment in coffee beans and soon had sacks stored all over his house. He perfected his roasting process through trial and error and in 2012 started selling his coffee from local outlets and a stand at Safety Harbor Third Friday events. They could sell 800-1,000 cups in 4 hours. 

In June of 2016 the retail location became available and Runnells and his daughter Logan decided to open a shop. Logan has a background in Food and Beverage, but had no experience with coffee as a business. The trial and errors continued with roasting test and commercial espresso machines. The Runnells have perfected a slow roasting process that results in a complex, medium roast, deep flavored, smooth coffee. They estimate they’ve roasted 25,000 pounds of beans since the business started. Logan learned about the nuances of each roast, blending and testing to identify flavor profiles they’re happy with. Their loyal clientele attest to the success of their efforts. Kent has lived in Safety Harbor for 33 years and has his business on Main Street. They both appreciate the extraordinary support that this town provides to local entrepreneurs.

Kent Runnells visits the farm several times a year and has gotten to know the farmers and the pickers. Many of the laborers picking beans are indigenous peoples, primarily from Panama. Most of them are poor and can’t afford expensive imported items like sneakers. Almost all of the worker’s children had no shoes, so about 5 years ago Kent began to bring children’s shoes with him in his luggage. 

Soccer is the predominant sport in Central America and every town has a soccer field, so he began to hand out shoes at the soccer fields. About a year ago Runnells learned about a children’s mission in the area run by Ryan and Lauri Bickel. Under the Faith Ministries umbrella, the Bickels house neglected children and also run a center that feeds about 75 children daily, so Runnells now funnels the shoes through their program.

The Café welcomes donations of new and gently used children’s shoes.  Sneakers with cleats would be extremely welcome, since soccer is so popular in Costa Rica. Yellow and orange are the most popular colors.  Shoes are very costly there, partly due to a 30% import duty, so they have a disproportionately high status in the culture.

So far, Safety Harbor area residents have provided overwhelming support to the Shoes for Kids effort. One local student led a drive at Safety Harbor Middle School and collected over 100 pairs of shoes. If you would like to donate shoes, you can bring them to the café or drop them off on the patio. only children’s shoes are needed, not socks or clothes.

Herb Safety

If I had a dollar for every time someone said to me that their neighbor’s sister’s boss’s cousin’s daughter said they should take some such herb for some such reason, I’d be writing this from the deck of my yacht while enjoying a perfectly chilled Cristal instead of at a cramped desk on an aging Mac with a ring on the wood under my teacup.  Nonetheless, as I go about extolling the value of botanical medicines, I feel compelled to occasionally stress their sensible use.

We know that plants can heal. We know that the risk of side effects is typically very low. Still, it’s vital that you understand the properties of what you’re taking and why. Just because an herb was effective for your co-workers distant relative doesn’t mean it’s the right choice for you.

Popularity can breed confusion, and when it comes to herbal remedies the best advice I can offer is:  do your own research. Gain a basic understanding of the human body and how it works. Understand the condition you’re seeking to treat and the remedy you decide to use. Invest in a few natural health books, the first of which should be Prescription for Nutritional Healing (Balch), an easy to use comprehensive guide. Of course you’ll find plenty of information on the Internet, but there’s a lot of misinformation too, particularly on sites bent on selling you something.  Personally, I stick with science-based research on sites like Livestrong or PubMed.  Be selective. Accept that your health is your responsibility and never forget that knowledge is power.

So, you’ve learned how the body works, what your treating, what remedy to choose and how best to use it. You’ve already checked to make sure there are no possible interactions with any pharmaceuticals you might be taking. Now, you’re going to look for a quality natural product. I have nothing against big box stores, but I’ll remind you of that old adage: you usually get what you pay for.  Unless you’re ordering directly from the manufacturer, I’d be wary of on-line stores. Call me old fashioned, but I want to hold a product in my hand –and check the expiration date– before I plunk down my hard earned cash.  Visit your local independently owned health food store instead, where you’ll get valuable assistance you simply won’t get from a stock clerk at the neighborhood Piggly Wiggly.

It’s important to resist the urge to go overboard and grab 3 or 4 different remedies to treat the same condition. How are you going to know which one is working?  Start with one, and if you don’t get the desired results move on to the next. 

Ok. You have your remedy… now, you’re going to follow the label instructions. Pay attention here: just because some is good doesn’t mean more is better. The majority of reported adverse events are the result of a lack of research into the product, its action, or a failure to follow the dosing instructions. When you get started on your journey with natural medicine I recommend building a reference for future use in the form of a health journal, where you record what you used, how you used it, and how well it worked. When illness strikes you don’t want to waste time with something you tried before that didn’t get the job done.  I firmly believe in self-sufficiency through health-sufficiency, and this is as good a place to start as any.

Nutritional supplements and herbal remedies are widely available, can be wonderfully effective, and –contrary to popular belief– are heavily regulated. But you gotta use your head.  When your neighbor’s sister’s boss’s cousin’s daughter has a suggestion, accept it graciously but disregard it completely… until you’ve done your own research.

Finally, if you have a serious or chronic health condition, don’t self-treat without the assistance of a trained professional, or if you use a natural remedy and don’t get better after a few days, it would be wise to check in with your doctor.

This information is provided for educational purposes, and is not intended as medical advice, nor is it intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any illness or disease, nor should it be considered a substitute for the expert care of a qualified medical professional.

Graphic courtesy Forward Pinellas(Screenshot/Duncan Kovar)

Add your voice for the future of transportation in Pinellas

in city hall/news

It’s time again to give your opinion to Forward Pinellas, our consolidated planning board responsible for both land use and transportation. The 25-year look-ahead transportation plan, named Advantage Pinellas, will eventually spell out preferred methods and locations- prioritizing between transit, roads, bike & pedestrian access.

Give your opinion to Forward Pinellas, our consolidated planning board responsible for both land use and transportation. The 25-year look-ahead transportation plan, named “Advantage Pinellas,” will eventually spell out preferred methods and locations- prioritizing between transit, roads, bike & pedestrian access. Take just 5-10 minutes and give your opinion.

Long range plans become mid-range projects, then short term schedules. Items not spelled out years in advance run the risk of someday not receiving federal or state funding grants. Getting today’s long-range plan correct is not just an exercise. And your opinion matters.

Take the survey

Click on advantagepinellas.metroquest.com and tell them your priorities. At the end, view how your neighbor’s replied. Forward the survey link to other Safety Harbor residents. Invite your neighbor who doesn’t get online – but may use and need public transportation – over to take it, too. This will give the planning department the widest citizen feedback possible.

Remember: 25 years in the future a new generation of residents will need new solutions to new transportation problems. Will we even be here? Take the survey- its only 5-10 minutes of your time. When you do, be thinking about the future of Safety Harbor and Pinellas County.

The survey will be open through the month of July.

Art Show: The Love of Safety Harbor

in news/town square

The Safety Harbor Museum and Cultural Center is hosting an art show this summer that celebrates our city. The Love of Safety Harbor will be on exhibit through August, with an Open House on Friday, July 19 from 7 to 9 p.m.

The Museum is a busy place with classes for children and adults, summer camps, as well as a permanent collection and rotating shows. Each summer, the Museum features a theme that is shown for three months. Christine McWilliams, a Recreation Supervisor, plans the programming for the center as well as the Safety Harbor’s two other gallery spaces in the Library and in City Hall. 

The Love of Safety Harbor call for entries was promoted on Facebook and open to artists and designers to submit works with a Safety Harbor theme or connection. There are twenty-seven artists featured and many of the pieces are for sale. There are acrylic, watercolor, and oil paintings as well as photography, a painted rock and stuffed owls.

The Open House will also feature a Silent Auction of several donated items including photos on canvas, four notecards with original oil painting, a shadow box and a variety of paintings. All proceeds from the auction will benefit the Safety Harbor Museum and Cultural Center. There will also be refreshments available and vendors selling their crafts.

Featured Artists

  • Caroline Karp
  • Kristen Krouk
  • Richard Lewis
  • Susan McCormick
  • Bernadette Menz
  • Shirley Payne
  • Charlie Pollitzer

Transit: Use It or Lose It

in news/town square

PSTA (Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority) has a long history of servicing Safety Harbor with regular and reliable transit. Over the years, low ridership has moved those routes to the top of the list for elimination during consolidation and budget cuts.

There was a time buses ran north and south on McMullen-Booth Road, those days are long gone. In the past, the useful Route 62 – directly connecting from Tyrone Mall in the south to Countryside Mall and up to Boot Ranch in the north – rode right down our main street zagging back on Enterprise Road. Back then, Safety Harbor residents could step out and ride nearly anywhere in the county without the hassle of a transfer. But because they didn’t, Route 62 now runs directly up Belcher Road passing our town by.

The Jolly Trolley

PSTA organized funding for a “Jolly Trolley” week-end service between our downtown and Dunedin. Residents or visitors in either town could visit the other, enjoy a dinner and refreshments, and not worry about parking or having “one too many.” The trolley ran especially on festive holidays like St. Patrick’s Day, New Year’s Eve and Cinco de Mayo, but it was also underutilized.

The Jolly Trolley’s Safety Harbor route began on February 1, 2014 and ended on February 4, 2017.

North County Connector

Today PSTA supports north Pinellas County with a network of three North County “Connector” buses, from a hub at Countryside Mall. One runs north through Dunedin and Palm Harbor up to Tarpon Springs. One runs east through Countryside and Oldsmar to the Tampa transfer hub. The “Safety Harbor Connector,” Route 814, runs right down Safety Harbor’s Main Street, then up to its turnaround point at Philippe Park. These Connectors feed riders to the main hub for north county at Countryside Mall. There, connecting buses take riders south to St. Petersburg, to east/west arterials, north to Pasco’s PCPT (Pasco County Public Transportation) network, and west to Clearwater and the beaches.

Low usage equals fewer routes

“Connector” buses use a hybrid route, defaulting to fixed roads and times. However, you can call PSTA in advance (two hours to three days) and a connector will veer up to three-quarters of a mile to pick you up or drop you off at any location. Sadly, the Safety Harbor Connector has the lowest ridership of any route in the PSTA system. It was recently scheduled for elimination and saved only at the last minute. The similarly underutilized connector between Dunedin and Tarpon, as a cost savings, has just been rebranded for only fixed route; no more door-to-door north of the mall. The “East Lake” Connector was discontinued long ago because most residents own cars and can afford to operate them.

Low ridership in Safety Harbor also resulted in a shorter schedule, with our connector now only operating between 7 am and 6 pm Monday through Saturday. To return home from St. Petersburg or Pasco might require leaving as early as 3 pm to catch the last departure from Countryside. See the PSTA website for exact schedules and routes, and how to ride the Safety Harbor / North County Connector.

If we want more service, more frequency, to more convenient locations there is only one requirement: Get out of your car and ride the Connector. With public transit, we use it or lose it.

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