The slash pine with a Traveling Tree Walk sign caught my eye as I entered Waterfront Park this morning. Late for any sort of sunrise photo, I decided to make this tree — one of my personal favorites — and its informational sign the focus of today’s photo. I was so focused on the sign that I didn’t initially see the trash in the photo background.Read more
In the mid-twentieth century, The Safety Harbor Spa was a luxurious winter haven for New York’s wealthy. Many guests got to know the workers and would request their favorite server or attendant year after year. In 1955 and for several years thereafter, one such visitor was Harry Donenfeld, owner of DC Comics, publisher of Superman.
Longtime resident Betty Lou Douglas, recalls being a teenager in Safety Harbor in the late 1950s. “Harry Donenfeld somehow found out there was nothing for us to do,” she said. “He may have gotten to know some of our parents who worked at the Spa.
We would walk from one end of town to another—we just hung out. Maybe he felt sorry for us. We were pretty much on our own.”
Whatever his reasons, Donenfeld donated funds to build a youth center. The 70’ x 30’ concrete block building was located close to where the Rigsby Recreation Center now stands, on 2nd Street North. “It faced sixth,” Douglas recalls, “it was located where the retention pond is now.”
In April, 1957, the Safety Harbor Herald claimed the opening ceremony had “one of the largest crowds in the history of Safety Harbor.”
“We had to find the money to make it nice inside,” Douglas said. “Seems to me we painted it turquoise and black. There was a lady in town named Carmel Creach. She got the idea that all of us kids could participate in a lip-synch to old songs. It was called Sentimental Journey. We made money. We bought a stereo system, a ping pong table. Our parents made the costumes. It was so good they booked us to go to the Clearwater Yacht Club. We even got to meet Guy Lombardo.”
It cost a dime to get in to the youth center and the parents chaperoned. “You had to sign in and sign out,” recalled Douglas. “You were allowed to sign in and out twice. After your second sign-out, you could not get back in, and parents could always look at those books.
“We were very safe, but everybody knew your business. My two nieces grew up here. One is now back and she has two boys. Their lives are very much like I had,” she said. “They ride their bikes; they go to the pier to fish.”
Donenfeld continued to support the center and he even mailed comics from time to time. People who remember the youth center recall when he made a surprise visit. He apparently walked into a board meeting and donated the money for a new, larger TV set so the kids wouldn’t ‘ruin their eyes’.
Youth opportunities have expanded since then.
Now, sixty some years after Harry Donenfeld took an interest in Safety Harbor’s youth, the City employs a large staff dedicated to encouraging residents to take advantage of the opportunities that promote active lifestyles. Today, residents enjoy a community center, a recreation center, numerous parks and a thriving library. In fact, the community center will soon house a fitness center that will be approximately 2,000 square feet of workout area. Equipment will include cardio, strength training, and free weights.
In an email, Shannon Schafer, Safety Harbor’s Recreation Superintendent, wrote, “The Fitness Center is a product of our commitment to our Health goal in keeping our residents active. Participants can also seek consultation from one of our staff for an orientation of the equipment or sign up with a personal trainer to create a more individualized plan to meet their fitness goals.
“The new addition will be open seven days a week and we will have daily, monthly and annual rates. The annual rate breaks down to only $.28 / day for residents of Safety Harbor. The hours are flexible to meet a variety of participant schedules.”
The targeted date for the grand opening is November 16th from 10:00 am to 1:00 pm.
There have been many changes with our recreational opportunities over the past sixty years but maybe it all started thanks to a real-life Superman.
Note: A portion of this article was first published in REAL Magazine in fall, 2017.
The City Commission meets on Monday, August 19, 2019. The Agenda is available on the city website.
Events Search and Views Navigation
The Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry Girls by Anissa Gray Read more about the book on GoodReads!Find out more »
The Agenda for the Commission meeting can be found on the city website: http://safetyharbor.granicus.com/GeneratedAgendaViewer.php?view_id=6&event_id=1675Find out more »
Books & Bagels meets on the third Tuesday of each month. July: My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry by Fredrik Backman August: Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith September: Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane by Lisa See October: Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail HoneymanFind out more »
Crooked Thumb's August Book selection is Carnegie's Maid by Marie Benedict. Read more about the book on Goodreads.Find out more »
Rachel's Law is a documentary about Rachel Hoffman, a 23 year-old college graduate from Safety Harbor who lost her life due to the corrupt practices and use of confidential informants. All proceeds go to the continuation of the Rachel Law. Tickets through Eventbrite.Find out more »
Start at Safety Harbor Art and Music Center and start your tour (self guided or with a tour guide) of local art in local businesses. Print out a map, or use an online map. Live artists creating art thru out downtown.Find out more »
Teens from Palm Harbor University will raise awareness for oceans all around the world with a presentation, crafts, games, and snacks. (SH Library Facebook)Find out more »
Meet greyhounds available for adoption at Crooked Thumb on the first Sunday of each month. GCGA also participates in Safety Harbor's Third Friday event and First Fridays in Tarpon Springs.Find out more »
What's the strangest, oddest, weirdest experience you've ever had? Do you still think of that moment or that thing that happened to you that you were never able to explain? We want to hear it in the form of a story, song or poem. You get up to 7 minutes at the mic. One project…Find out more »
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.
Tree ordinance presentation
Tanja Vidovic presented a proposal to strengthen Safety Harbor’s tree ordinance (see excerpt from email sent to Commission). Residents shared support for this idea, including: Carol MacNamee, who noted that the 2015 ordinance set a minimum standard and that Safety Harbor currently has just one class of “protected” tree, whereas other municipalities have more categories of protected trees; Cherie Moscardini who shared a situation wherein a tree was killed, apparently through extensive cutback, without any penalty; Heather Richardson who noted that “trees are even more important than ever, especially with our climate change issues.” Commissioner Zodrow reflected that the 2015 ordinance was a compromise that “needs to be beefed up.” He expressed the need for citizen involvement to insure a stronger ordinance. City Manager Matt Spoor noted that the Commission made changes to the 2015 ordinance, including the addition of fines, in 2016 and 2018. Commissioner Cliff Merz, noting the importance of the ordinance, suggested the city include it with updates made over time on the city website.
Additional public comment
Joanne Fisher thanked the city for the support given to her family and Brady’s BBQ and for remembering Brady with planned artwork.
Recognition of Retiree Leonard DeGroat
Leonard DeGroat was recognized upon his retirement after 37 years of service to the city.
Consent Agenda items (approval of June 3 minutes, approval of a purchase order to Kamminga and Roodvoets for MLK/Powhatan sewer line replacement project, awarding of contract to Augustine Construction for Main Street intersection brick repair, award for purchase of brick from Oldcastle for brick street repair) approved, 5-0.
Ready for 100
Supporters of the City’s Ready for 100 Resolution, identified by yellow stickers on their shirts, packed City Hall. Public comment on the Resolution was overwhelmingly positive.
Brian Beckman of the Suncoast Sierra Club, who initially presented Ready for 100 to the Commission on May 20, answered questions regarding transportation issues, potential grants available, status of other local municipalities’ plans, and goal dates for the cities and communities. Commissioner Zodrow suggested addition of a clause pertaining to environmental justice in order to provide support for lower income households’ and marginalized communities’ participation in the Ready for 100 initiative.
After discussion, the Commission passed the Ready for 100 Resolution without addition of the environmental justice language but with addition of a 2050 goal date.
Asked if other cities include environmental justice in their plans, Brian Beckman said cities are encouraged to do so and shared Dunedin’s Resolution language that encompasses environmental justice: “The City of Dunedin, in pursuit of these targets, will seek to build inclusive community leadership, policy engagement, and provide regional leadership to address equity in climate and energy.”
The Commission denied (5-0) request for a waiver to the land development code (Article VI Community Redevelopment District, Section 100.00 Waivers) due to technical impracticality, one of the allowable reasons for granting a waiver. The request was to increase lot coverage from 35% to 41% on a 5000 square foot lot. Residents presented a petition and spoke in opposition to the waiver.
The Commission approved 5-0, on first reading, change in land use and rezoning for an addition to Folly Farms at 1538 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd.
The Commission approved 5-0, on first reading, change in land use and rezoning for expansion of the Public Works compound east of 2157 Railroad Ave.
At Monday night’s City Commission meeting, Commissioner Nancy Besore expressed her sorrow on the passing of former city commissioner Mary Lynda Williams, who served on the Commission from 2008 to 2012. Later, Besore shared that Ms. Williams loved serving on the Commission. Besore reflected, “Mary Lynda was very kind and encouraging to me. She taught me skills in canvassing neighborhoods in 2009, my first encounter with running for office. She was a wonderful friend to Mattie Williams Neighborhood Family Center. She served as liaison between the Center and the Commission during her service. She loved parades, our tree lighting, the Mayor’s Breakfast…” Besore participated in the Florida League of Cities training for Public Officials on Ms. Williams’ recommendation– another example of Williams being a mentor and role model. “It was,” Besore said, “a joy serving with her.”
Mary Lynda Williams and I had the opportunity to work together for several years when we were both Commissioners. I always admired her independent voice and desire to make decisions that were best for Safety Harbor. She was a true public servant and will be missed.Joe Ayoub, Mayor of Safety Harbor
Janet Hooper, Executive Director of Mattie Williams Neighborhood Family Center and a former city commissioner, recalled Ms. Williams as “always thoughtful, kind-hearted. Always tried to do the right thing, the best thing.” Ms. Williams was a commissioner when Hooper began working at Mattie Williams and Ms. Williams was instrumental in having a community walk for Martin Luther King, Jr., Day. Hooper said that Ms. Williams “believed in the importance of recognizing the diversity of our community.” Hooper recalled that when she joined the Commission, Ms. Williams set an example through her dedication to her responsibilities. On being a Commissioner, Ms. Williams advised, “You show up–– you care about things going on in the community.”
By all accounts, that is exactly what Mary Lynda Williams did. Hooper said Ms. Williams attended every event. Whether through attending events, researching and working through difficult issues, making donations and bringing coupons to Mattie Williams, and, ever year until more recently, delivering food and gifts to Safety Harbor’s senior citizens for the Christmas holiday. “She was very caring and giving,” Hooper said, “She wanted to recognize everyone.”
Ms. Williams’ obituary can be found on the Dignity Memorial website. According to the site, a service will be held at 10 am on June 6 at Sylvan Abbey Memorial Park. Ever dedicated to the residents of Safety Harbor, Ms. Williams asked that donations in her memory be made to Mattie Williams Neighborhood Family Center.