This Quiet Corner

An informal History of Boyd Hill Nature Park St. Petersburg, Florida

Researched and Written By Elizabeth M. Verbeck


The tranquil wooded acres that now compose the Boyd Hill Nature Park in southeast St. Petersburg, Florida have only a short history of actual ownership. Early settlers such as Abel Miranda, John R. Hayes and William B. Coons lived on the outer perimeter of these acres. All of these men hunted the prolific woods, fished and took alligators from the waters of Salt Lake. They were all colorful characters who left a lasting mark on this land.

Abel Miranda, for instance, was a wealthy Minorcan sea captain who settled on the shores of Tampa Bay in the Big Bayou area in 1857 less than two miles from the area that is the city park today. He established a fish ranch, planted a citrus grove and built a hospitable home. He also began an extensive business with the fishing smacks from the Key West area and with Cuban fishermen. At the outset of the Civil War, Federal forces from Egmont Key, about 15 miles southeast in the mouth of Tampa Bay, commandeered one of the fishing smacks and under its innocent guise raided Miranda's holdings. They burned his buildings, destroyed his citrus groves and slaughtered his animals. They carried away everything they could carry and destroyed the rest. In retaliation, Miranda. a wily and experienced seaman, became a blockade runner. John Hayes was responsible for one of the first roads on the east side of the lake. He extended an old Tampa cattlemen's trail into a local roadway --along the approximate path of the present Ninth Street South in the area of Lake Maggiore.

John Bethell was an early settler who left his mark on more than just the land. He also left us the first written histories of the Pinellas Point area.In the Civil War's aftermath, the state of Florida found itself in financial difficulties. Bonds had been floated for the construction of railroads, and these were due. The costs of war were high and Florida was broke. The Swamp and Overflow Act of 1852 had allowed the state to claim lands thus designated as property of the state. In the final analysis, lands were taken that could in no way be called swampy. In this greedy grab for land, much of Florida's choicest acreage was annexed by officials for their own profit. With the day of financial reckoning imminent, Florida attempted to recoup some of its loss by selling the railroads, however that revenue fell far short of the funds needed. A quiet plan was made to sell a large tract of land on Florida's east coast. Creditors learned of the plan and filed liens against the land.

In 1877, Hamilton Disston, son of a sawmaker of Detroit, Michigan, became involved in the situation. An unlikely candidate for the role of savior --a typical rich playboy and a bit of a rake --Disston was, however, an astute businessman and developer as well. He offered the state $1-million for four-million acres of land. When the state accepted his offer, he sent his agents all over the state selecting the choicest lands. He wound up owning 18 percent of the state of Florida; over five-million acres acquired for approximately 20 cents per acre! His vast acreage included the lands that later became the "Nature Trail" and its swampy little salt lake that nestled in the woods.

In 1883, William B. Miranda, a nephew of Abel Miranda, made Disston's acquaintance through the purchase of a tract of land along what is now 22nd Avenue South. About this time, Disston formed the Disston Land and Improvement Company, and appointed William Miranda its first land agent. The new land company was incorporated in 1884 and Miranda platted all of Disston's holdings south of Central Avenue. During this platting, Miranda came upon the little Salt Lake in its quiet woodsy setting. It reminded him of the beautiful Lake Maggiore he had visited on the Swiss and Italian border in Europe. Because of this, he renamed* the lake Lake Maggiore. Originally pronounced Ma-JHOR-i, the name was corrupted through the years to Ma-GO-ry.

Hamilton Disston was very caught up in his plan to build a "dream city" on the site of what is now Gulfport, so apparently did not do much of anything with the land on St. Petersburg's southeast side. It wasn't until the advent of developer C. R. Hall and his wife Emma who came to St. Petersburg in 1912, that this land was sold as part of a development package. The Halls formed the Victory Land Company and began development of Lakewood Estates. They planned to make it the most opulent development of the city and laid sewage, water and power lines, built curbed streets and designed a golf course.

Unfortunately, a nearby outlet to Tampa Bay, called Salt Creek, periodically drained Lake Maggiore during low tides and created a smelly deterrent to prospective home¬sites in the vicinity. The aura of an unloved stepchild hung over this south-side area and Lakewood Estates was not the success of Charles and Emma Hall's dreams. This is the version of historian Karl Grismer. However, two other versions of how and by whom the lake was christened exist. The late Walter P. Fuller, also a local historian, credits Thomas Sterling about the same time (1884). A news story of May 5, 1925 says the lake was believed to have been named by a pirate, nut until Lakewoed Estates was developed during the Florida boom, most old timers called it Salt Lake (which it was at one time.)


As early as 1925, the city had its eye on the lush acres surrounding its largest lake, then known to most as Salt Lake. A $25,000 bond issue was passed and the city made an offer to buy the lake and surrounding land. The Victory Land Company refused to consider the offer, but soon it was Black Tuesday, 1929, and the Halls closed their doors and their land company went into receivership. In the confused and difficult years following the Great Depression, very little buying, selling or building was carried on anywhere. The status quo of these acres around the.... several changes in this quiet corner of St. Petersburg came about in 1947. The Rod and Gun Club moved from Pinellas Point and located on the east side of the lake and extensive work was begun.


Construction began on the Nature Trail in 1947, with $125,-000 of the city's funds allocated for the project, Although the aim was to leave the park as natural as possible, a certam amount of clearing was necessary. Crews laid out the pathways that would become the trails. Workers cleared a space for parking and a stone arch was built. A pretty stone bridge was built over a small stream bed where the main trail would cross. Crews cleared areas and planted flowers and flowering shrubs such as azaleas. Many of the flowers were donated and planted by the Anthurium Circle of the St. Petersburg Garden Club. (This circle was made up mostly of women who lived in the area near the park.) Many of the exotic plants which still cling tenaciously to the park environs were planted during the park's formative years. Max and Mattie Cherbonneux, amaryllis growers who lived in the neighborhood, contributed bushels of bulbs for planting around the entrance area and along the trail. At first no admission was charged but the city later decided on a fee of 10 cents and a turnstile was installed near the park entrance.

It was a man named Boyd Hill who supervised the building and plantings in the nature trail part of Lake Maggiore Park. He had come to work for the city park department in 1936.


Boyd Hill was born in 1901 in Corner, Georgia, the son of Walter and Maggie Hill. He was educated at Rabun Gap Nacootchee Institute, a school which became renowned through the subsequent publication of the Foxfire books. It was there that young Boyd met Minnie Buchanan, who would later be-come his wife. The young couple married in 1925 and came to Florida that same year. He found work with the Mt. Lake Corp. in Lake Wales where he worked with the Olmstead brothers on the building of Bok Tower. The city of St. Petersburg, having received excellent reports of his work, hired him to work in the parks department. One of his first jobs was to supervise the building of numerous ball fields. Hill had a natural affinity for green and growing things and he carefully nurtured this gift by utilizing every bit of natural lore that came his way. It was said of him that he couk' just look at a plant or tree and tell exactly what it needed. Many of the trails and plantings in the park area were planned and supervised by Hill. Hill saw in this large acreage around Lake Maggiore, a precious trust that must be preserved at all costs. He had many avid supporters for his point of view, among them a newspaper columnist and an enthusiastic garden club woman with a crusader's zeal. Together they aspired to see this parkland forever wild.

Upon the death of park superintendent A. M. Beers in 1954, Boyd Hill was promoted to that position. His dream of bringing together the people of an urban community and nature-in-the-raw could become a reality, for he believed that man and nature could co-exist without disturbing the balance of either and he worked to this end.

The lake remained undisturbed as the town slowly spread outward from the downtown area along Central Avenue. Building lots could be purchased for less than $350, and as the southside neighborhoods grew, so did the desire for the lakeside park. In 1934, a collection of southside land owners and businessmen formed the Lake Maggiore Park Association with L. A. Pickett as president and Aloysius Coil as secretary. Their purpose was to formulate a plan of development for the area and to persuade the city to purchase the lake and its bordering land as parkland. Donations were sought for the title to the lands and the building of a driveway along its shores. The same year, St. Petersburg was designated as a site for park development by the Florida Metropolitan Park Program and improvements were begun around the lake.

In 1940, in an effort to further control the lake level and improve it as a freshwater fishery and to define the lake shoreline, a concrete dam was constructed south of 26th Avenue at Ninth Street. This allowed the exte1 ision of Ninth Street South all the way to Pinellas Point. Freshwater fish were stocked in the lake, but saltwater species such as the mullet were still most prevalent. Commercial netters were hired to rid the lake of thousands of mullet which were considered undesirable for sport fishing.

The Victory Land Company had been, taken over by two lawyers, James Bussey and Sam Mann. In 1943, St. Petersburg's Mayor R. J. McCutcheon convinced these men to accept an offer of $40,000 along with the dismissal of $14,200 in unpaid back taxes for the lake and its surroundings -totaling 661 acres.

Many proposals were made and numerous residents submitted development plans for the new parkland. It was proposed that the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts be given 20 acres each for camping. A sanitary landfill was proposed for the northwest section of the parkland to fill ten acres of low land. An addtional 60 acres was acquired on the west side of Ninth Street in 1945. Some residents from the northeast side of the city filed a petition with 219 signatures in protest of the $40,000 purchase of the'Lake Maggiore Parkiands. The irate City Council, headed by Councilman Ray Dugan, denied the petition and described it as "absolutely without merit."

In the St. Petersburg Times of May 13,1944 we read: "We note 219 signatures to the petition. Two hundred fifteen of the signers live in the northeast section between 14th Avenue NE and 19th Avenue NE. This petition should be preserved in the city's archives for posterity so that our children and our children's children may learn, when enjoying a master park such as Lake Maggiore, that it was opposed by those whom the city had furnished with $12-million worth of park facilities, while $55,000 was spent for a park in a district of the city that contained approximately one-fourth of its population, whose citizens also paid taxes, but still they had neither a park nor any other kind of recreational facilities." Throughout the '40s some of the guidelines formulated by the early leaders of the Lake Maggiore Park Association were upheld -mainly to develop the entire complex while maintaining its natural state.

In 1957, at the age of 56, Hill suddenly died of a heart attack. On his cluttered desk were the plans and dray ings for the expansion of the park area he loved best --Lak Maggiore Park. Many of his ideas were integrated into the renovation plan completed in 1980, and his philosophy for thE park is still upheld today by park administration and resident alike. The park was renamed Boyd Hill Nature Trail in 1958.


In the '50s, due to the popular commentary of Times journalist Dick Bothwell, people began to visit and browse along the shady, lush trails of the nature trail. A small collection of animals was housed in cages and a large flight cage held dozens of parakeets. This modest zoo brought visitors, and this led to further plans by the city. Now that the city had a zoo and more visitors could be counted each day, the mayor contracted with Tampa artist Kathy Little for a "kiddieland" attraction for the park at a cost of $11,940. It was to be similar to a project at Tarn pa's Lowery Park.

In July of 1958, the first tentative plan was discussed and presented to the pUblic by way of the newspapers. The plans were approved by the city council in August 1958 but work was not started until March 1959. The neighborhood opposed the plan but the work on the project called "Kiddie-land" continued and Mother Goose figures, larger than life, were constructed of papier-mache. The city had also given consideration to selling concession rights to a carnival company in Tampa. All of this was to be placed in the natural environment of the Nature Trail. Environmentalists living in the area were up in arms! Their aim was to keep Lake Maggiore and its environs as natural as possible. For this purpose the Lakewood Civic Improvement League, a very active group, had been formed.

IVI attie Lou Cherbonneux was an active environmentalist, a garden club member and one of the driving forces of the Lakewood Civic Improvement League. When the Kiddieland project was begun, Mrs. Cherbonneux was staunchly against it as were garden club leader Mrs. Walter Wylie, and Mrs. Winfield Lott and Mrs. Robert Davis, co¬chairs of the garden club's conservation committee. With public outrage linging in their ears, editorials and columns by Bothwell assaulting their eyes, the city conceded in July 1959 that the Kiddieland and its Mother Goose figures most go and the figures fell into disrepair and were subsequently removed. 'The atmosphere of serene peace and quiet is almost tangible. And this will be even more priceless an asset in the day when Pinellas is solidly settled, for the original Florida is going fast." Thus said Bothwell's column of Oct. 12, 1958.


During the next several years the small zoo continued to expand. It grew much larger than was originally intended and included a large flight cage which housed 300-500 colorful parakeets. There were two bear cubs (raised as orphans), two deer, eight monkeys, numerous macaws and parrots, an alligator named Sam and a cage with ten boas and two pythons. Dr. Frank Mills was the veterinarian who cared for the melange of animals. As long as the zoo lasted there was always an animal named after Sam McCollum who became park foreman in 1969.

B the 1970s a problem with vandalism and security for the zoo arose and a security fence was erected around the entire acreage-of the park. It was also decided that a guard was needed within the fence. The city started taking applications for a horseback patrol to keep surveillance along the trails and in the zoo area. A veritable flood of applications poured in --it seemed that everyone wanted to work in such pleasant surroundings. In spite of the new patrolman, vandalism continued. With approximately 214 acres of parkland, one man could not be everywhere at once. One evening all the snakes disappeared from their glass and concrete cage. The newspapers promptly aroused a furor, and three days later the snakes were returned to the zoo. Perhaps the perpetrators found they had taken on more than they could handle. During this reign of senseless vandalism some animals were maimed badly, some were killed outright and some were set free to escape into the park's acreage. In an effort to make security an easier job, the mounted patrolman traded his horse for a jeep in 1975. By 1977, plans for the expansion of the park were well underway. In the interest of the animals' safety, it was decided that the zoo must be disbanded. The animals were removed to larger zoos elsewhere which had natural habitat environments. The theme of the expanded park complex would be naturalness. Animals in cages, though intriguing to look at, are certainly not natural, so no new cages were incorporated into the park plans. Boyd Hill Nature Trail has accrued many awards since its inception in 1947. General Telephone presented the park with its beautification award and many garden clubs have made the park the recipient of various honors. The park now closed its doors for a sort of primeval"R & R". The Nature Trail was being prepared for a grand re-opening as a park more naturally beautiful than before.


Behind the closed gates of the park, hustle and bustle were now the order of the day. The old zoo was gone. The new South Branch Library building containing a nature center, a manager's office and a conference room was erected by the firm of Angle and Schmid, General Contractors. In June 1980, the city hired Diana Kyle of Tampa as the park's naturalist-manager. Mrs. Kyle was educated at the University of South Florida, obtaining a bachelor's degree in science. She had taught high school for a while where she instituted classes in marine biology, Florida wildlife and horticulture. Although Mrs. Kyle was born in Georgia she a ways considered Florida her second home because she had spent most of her summers with her grandparents in St. Petersburg. That summer, asphalt trails were laid and the maintenance shed, information booth and library building were standing as roofed shells. Willow Marsh Trail was just being built when Mrs. Kyle began work on the first park brochure to attract people to the park. Next, she worked to obtain equipment to operate and maintain the park properly. Mowers, tools, display cases and aquarium equipment had to be ordered or built. It had already been decided that December 14, 1980 was to be the opening date. With this deadline looming, the library had to be stocked with books, park staff hired and the new nature 'enter/museum made ready with displays. Mary McBride was appointed as the first head librarian for the new South Branch Library.

In the nature center, four large aquariums were built. Three were set up with freshwater fish and plants native to Florida's rivers and lakes. The largest, a 350-gallon tank, was stocked with saltwater marine life. These aquariums were the result of a 1976 legacy of $100,000 from the estate of Kurt Boerman which had been designated for the purpose.

Snake exhibits were loaned by Ron Schultz, a local snake fancier. The collectible shell exhibit was prepared by the St. Petersburg Shell Club and Darrell Trick donated the fossil shells. Hermann Trappman, an amateur paleontologist, set up and illustrated a fossil display of Florida's ancient past. Arab Pest Control donated an insect display. Trappman and his wife Candy and Ken Yancey had beer dropping in frequently during the construction period. Yancey was commissioned as the artist on the various interpretive signs through out the park which identify the flora and fauna along each trail, as well as the park brochures. Tim Ott, who had majored in forestry at Syracuse University, N.Y., was hired as the first park ranger and Candy Trappman became the park's first cashier. In January 1981, Julie Weston was also hired as a cashier. She had been a volunteer staffing the desk in the nature center. In December 1980, Yancey has hired as a park ranger and Diane Richardson began her duties as a ranger in March 1981. Richardson had obtained her B.S. in Biology from Eckerd College. In April, of that year the author became a cashier, having first served as a volunteer at the nature center desk. (She had started research for this book prior to her employment.) Sam McCollum was made park foreman on the new expanded crew. He had been with the Nature Park for more than ten years inclUding his years as the overseer of the old zoo. Under Sam's supervision, additional city crews were called in to speed the completion of the park in time for the scheduled reopening. Ed Hamm, a landscape artist with the parks department designed the master plan for the newly developed areas of the park. The little creek which meanders past the library and through the picnic area was used as a natural dividing line: Everything west of the stream would be only native plants, while to the east. flowering trees and more tropical exotics would be planted. Finally, the big day arrived. Among city dignitaries, the new staff, Mrs. Minnie Hill (widow of Boyd Hill) and more than 400 visitors, the "new" Boyd Hill Nature Park was declared open. The library, with a 30,OOO-volume capacity was awaiting readers and the nature center museum was prepared to educate visitors. The new trail system offered a pleasant way to while away an afternoon while visiting nature's own living room. In her speech of welcome to the guests of the day, Mrs Kyle stressed the need for many volunteers to help in the operation of the park. Mrs. Rose Hanner, who lived nearby, became the first of a growing corps of dedicated people who volunteered to staff the nature park. Volunteers are very important to the smooth operation of the park complex since they fill many jobs when budgets cannot be stretched to accommodate additional paid staff. During the first month of operation, visitors came from as far away as Surinam, England, Scotland, Germany and France. Local people came to reinstate a love affair with nature that had been lost in the rush of urban living. People who had visited the nature trail of old found a whole new park. In September 1981, Mayor Corinne Freeman and Council member Rev. J. W. Cate, along with contractors Robert Angle and Gerald Smith and their wives, flew to Washington, D. C. where they accepted the National Association of Nurserymen's Award for Excellence of Design ind Preservation of the Natural Environment --a national landscape award for the nature park.


In the preceding chapters of this history, not very much has been mentioned about Lake Maggiore itself. The 375-acre lake is situated west of Ninth Street South and is bounded on the north by 26th Avenue South, along the west by 31st Street and on the south by the lands of the nature park and Country Club Way South and Fairway Avenue South.

The lake is known as a eutrophic body of water which means that it is shallow and is filling up with nutrient-loaded sediment. Formerly a salt water bayou, the lake was turned fresh in the 1940s when the city dammed it. It is fed by six fresh water springs situated in the northwest po:rtion. One local historian, Walter Fuller, writes that as long ago as the fifteenth century, ships of various nations found their way into what is now Tampa Bay and anchored there. Landing parties were launched, and sent in search of water. Apparently the first of these vessels was a Levantine bark or xebic. A later expedition in 1517 is ascribed to the explorer Francisco DeCordova. Fuller states that this ship's landing party forced its way through dense woods to encoun-ter the quiet, hidden lake. Since it has been salt, or at least brackish, for most of its recorded history, however, it is doubtful that Lake Maggiore's water would have been potable. Early Indian settlers to this part of Florida must surely have fished the waters and taken alligators for food and hides. We do know, thanks to John Bethel! who left us his excellent account of early settlement life in his two histories of Pinelias Point, that they did hunt and fish extensively in this area. He also takes care to mention that he and fellow settlers took no more game than they needed to feed and clothe their families. Today, Lake Maggiore is a lake in distress. in the relentless pursuit of progress, man has nearly murdered it. Once a valuable fishing bonanza, it is now a very dull jewel in nature's crown. The lake is aging, and the process has been hastened by what has been done to it in the name of civilization. The formerly clear water of the lake is now polluted by such urban residue as fertilizer runoff, oils and tars from the roads, storm drain effluent, acid rain and the growth of choking vegetation. In the '30s and '40s, men did not stop to ponder the probable result of what was done to "urbanize" an area. Their ideas of development were to cut down the trees, root out the shrubbery and hold back the waters with walls. In short, their methods turned a once¬beautiful natural area into the great gods Concrete and Steel. Hindsight makes a good teacher --if one heeds the lesson there to be read. n the '70s the city mounted an effort to slow the lake's aging process. A system was set up whereby air is pumped into the lake by means of 50,000 feet of black plastic tubing attached to 42 diffusers. These are porous stones though which the oxygen percolates into the mud. This disrupts the oxygen-poor silt and pushes it to the surface where it is exposed to sunlight and air which decompose it. Some think water quality in the lake has been improved by this system which is known by the brand name Clean-Flo. One two-stage plan for reclaiming the lake consists of first restoring it to health, and then formulating some kind of control over what drains into its basin. Nine major storm drains now pour their contamination into the lake, bearing many kinds of pollutants. It has been suggested that the lake be opened to Tampa Bay tides again, to completely drain it, exposing its bottom to the healing sunlight. Both of these methods would be very costly, insist the experts. The effectiveness of the Clean-Flo system is difficult to assess, but it inconveniences no one except the alligator population which occasionally tries to lunch on the tubing --an unpalatable meal at best. Although water quality in the lake is diminishing, anglers who take fish from the lake's water seem to eat the fish with no hint of illness. For many years now, the most prevalent species of fish that could live in the lake has been tilapia. commonly called the Nile perch. This fish easily adapts to polluted waters, More recently local cast netters say that they are catching other species of fish as well: bream, mullet, catfish and even an occasional snook. 


During the period between 1978 and 1980 while the park was being prepared for reopening, the city was negotiating with Miss Ruth Kirby for the purchase of a 47.74-acre tract of land on the west side of the lake along 31 st Street South between 26th and 34th avenues --now known as the Environmental Studies Area, Miss Kirby had purchased the property from Ed C.Wright many years before as a homesite. Miss Kirby had been Wright's long-time secretary. Miss Kirby had come with her family to Florida in the wake of the depression years. Having been brought up in a rural setting, she was enchanted with the wilderness acreage she now owned. Keeping it as natural as possible, she created a cabin-in-the¬woods atmosphere within the confines of a densely urban area. Between 1973 and 1974, the St. Petersburg Southside Land Use Plan, which was a part of the comprehensive St. Petersburg Land Use Plan, classified the Kirby property as estate lands "worthy of environmental preservation." In 1976, the city made its first application to the state of Florida Department of Natural Resources (DNR), for a grant to aid in obtaining the property. In 1977, the city signed an option for the purchase, pending the receipt of the grant from DNR. In 1980, the grant was approved by the state, with certain specifications which the city was required to meet. The property was duly purchased from Miss Kirby in July 1980. Specifications for the grant required many things of the city, giving until June 30, 1982 to carry them out. Funds came from the DNR Land and Water Conservation Fund, project #12-00141, Lake Maggiore Park Addition. Total grant funds were to be half of the estimated project price of $939,-488 if the grant specifications were met by the 1982 deadline. The development of the Environmental Studies Area was to include a nature center/classroom, camping facilities, hiking trails, canoe rental/use, handicapped trails, water recreation, picnic area, bike trails, complete security fencing, restrooms, preservation area, gate house/office, meeting room, roads, a pioneer farm concept and environmental education emphasis. The first construction on the property was a screened A-frame building containing six 8¬foot picnic tables seating 60 people. The labor on the 45-by-30-foot building was provided by the Young Adult Conservation Corps under the supervision of David Whitmore. (YACC is a federally funded, 10 cally administered public works program which apprentices young people to construction tasks.) The YACC also built the six tent platforms and six cabins as well as the picnic tables at Boyd Hill Nature Park. Some of the existing buildings were to be razed. In additon, the se of the swiming pooi Miss Kirby had installed was prohibited because it would not meet public codes. Blueprints for an eight-shower, eight-toilet restroom were donated by Ray Bennett. Hot water was to be provided by a solar system in keeping with the environmental education theme. In the spring of 1981, interns Kim Cotter and Jenny Treissing from the University of Indiana established a trail for the blind and visually handicapped around the willow pond near the "brown house" on the property. Traversing the trail was made possible by the use of knotted ropes and a recorded tape. Another pair of interns who came to the park for training in planning to preserve the natural way of life was instrumental in helping to formulate plans for a Florida farm community on the former Kirby tract. These two, Scott O. Robinson from Florida State University and Robert Burroughs from the University of Florida, prepared a slide show presentation for public viewing and a feasibility study of the proposed pioneer Florida farm. Their work was patterned somewhat after an existing farm at the Morningside Nature Center near Gainesville, Florida. Ed Hamm drew up plans for a farm. Some of the ideas proposed for the use of the pioneer farm concept include organic gardening, grinding wheat and com, dyeing with natural dyes, carding and spinning wool and extracting honey. Nature art shows might someday be held on the farm property also. The park is interested in procuring old buildings that are suitable for renovation and which conform to the era which the farm is to portray. It is hoped that the old time farm methods and a hands-on farm animal display will acquaint modem children with a way of life that is rapidly disappearing in today's highly computerized world.


In the early months of 1981, a group of people interested in further preserving the natural state of the park and contributing to its support founded The Friends of Boyd Hill Nature Park, Inc. The charter and articles of incorporation were applied for on May 6, 1981 with charter members, officers and board: President, Ann Parker; Vice President, Bill Costello; Secretary, Paula Jolliff and Treasurer, Gabe Vargo. Subscribers for the charter were Elizabeth Verbeck, Gerda Rosenthal and Hermann Trappman. The newly formed club invited membership from the general public. Interesting programs about nature were provided at monthly meetings.

From this dedicated group came many of the volunteers who staff the nature center desk, serve as trail guides and work in diverse ways for the benefit of the park. Annual events have been instituted including the Art Arbor Festival in November, a Trash and Treasure sale in May and a Nature Photography Contest during the summer. The Friends of Boyd Hill Nature Park also print a monthly newsletter telling of their activities and other events in the park. 


Park foreman Sam McCollum retired in 1982 after 16 years with the parks department. He had worked at the park during the late '60s when St. Petersburg residents came to know it as the nature trail. McCollum, an ex-Army pilot, ran the successful Tanglewood Wholesale Nursery until the freeze of 1962. He had also served as foreman at each of the city's recreation centers, and supervised the training of maintenance crews. In August 1982, Mike Clibon was selected to become the park's foreman. Clibon had been supervisor of PARC operatons at the city nursery. In the fall of 1983, Ann Parker, a Pinellas County school teacher, became the Environmental Studies Teacher whose classroom is the whole outdoors at the nature trail. Mrs. Parker conducts field trips instructing students in the whys and wherefores of nature at its wildest. She had been an active volunteer at the reopening of the park in 1980, and her master's degree in environmental education qualified her to direct the education program at the park. In October 1983, Diana Kyle, the park's first manager, was transferred to become manager of waterfront parks. This meant leaVing the nature park she had helped come to rebirth. In her place the city appointed Alford R. (Ray) Lydon as park manager. Lydon had begun his work with the city of St. Petersburg in October 1949 and has had diverse experiences in the city's service. His job experiences included supervisor of the city's swimming pools, beaches and playgrounds and he had been manager of the pier and of the city's marina. He came to the nature park from the position of supervisor of all of the city's westside recreation centers. In 1984, Hermann Trappman became a part-time ranger and in 1985 Ellen Manning did also. She had been employed for three years on the maintenance crew.


The Boyd Hill Nature Park offers much that the public may not be immediately aware of. Every summer, Nature Day Camp is held at the Environmental Studies Area. Instructed by park personnel and dedicated volunteers, children hike through the woods, study plants and animals, make natural crafts and learn outdoor skills such as the use of a compass. The opportunities for educating St. Petersburg's young people toward an appreciation of nature are unlimited in this unique, green, quiet corner.

The park offers free lectures about nature-oriented subjects and free early morning bird walks are conducted by volunteers. The rangers conduct a night hike along the trails each month and wildflower walks are available in season. Public programs for all ages are offered both daytime and evening. Slide shows which take one on a narrated, visual tour of the park complex are offered free to various groups.


This quiet corner of a sprawling city is so much more than just a nice place to walk on a sunny afternoon. It is a classroom, a playground, a camping area, a lecture room and a lovely setting for a wedding or a quiet picnic lunch. Boyd Hill Nature Park is, in the words of former manager Diana Kyle, "a forest, surrounded by urbanization, saved by a touch of forethought."

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