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Science Center embarks on solar initiative for St. Petersburg parks

Folks dressed in their finest tweed or seersucker ride through downtown St. Petersburg during the Tweed Ride and Seersucker Shuffle last weekend.

CHRIS ZUPPA | Times

Folks dressed in their finest tweed or seersucker ride through downtown St. Petersburg during the Tweed Ride and Seersucker Shuffle last weekend.

The parks in the Sunshine City are going green.

On Thursday, the St. Petersburg City Council unanimously approved a resolution that could be a boon for training local high school students in the technologies for alternative energy.

The resolution approves a partnership between the city and the Science Center of Pinellas County for spending a $1.4 million Solar Parks Initiative Grant, plus an additional $1 million, all from the U.S. Department of Energy, to install solar systems in 17 parks and recreation centers and establish two exhibits at the Science Center.

"We're very excited about our partnership with the city and Department of Energy," said Joseph Cuenco, executive director at the Science Center.

Each of the 17 parks will get solar panels — some atop the recreation centers, some atop maintenance buildings — to help supply energy for the facilities.

At the Science Center, one exhibit will be a working model of solar panels outside the building. Inside, there will be a hands-on education exhibit and kiosk that will demonstrate how the technology works, Cuenco said.

The collaboration between the city and the Science Center should bear fruit beyond the exhibits.

"What we're going to do is to develop a curriculum for certification so that high school students can get training," said Cuenco, who added that the goal is to provide students with certification and career paths to job skills, postsecondary education and beyond.

The exhibits will be open to all students, and Cuenco hopes to attract a lot of middle schoolers before they make decisions on whether they're going to stay in school and what areas they're interested in.

"Alternative energy is going to be one of the areas for job growth in the future and this curriculum will help in preparing students for that," he said.

• • •

More than 120 people participated in last weekend's Tweed Ride and Seersucker Shuffle, which was organized to raise awareness about the St. Petersburg Shuffleboard Club at 559 Mirror Lake Drive N.

Never heard of a Tweed Ride? It's a rapidly growing phenomenon that started in London a couple of years ago. A group of cyclists, dressed in traditional British cycling attire (preferably tweed), takes to city streets. In St. Petersburg, the nattily attired riders heard cheers as they meandered through the streets downtown.

Proceeds from the event, which are still being calculated, will help restore the club's tournament courts.

"Our goal for the event was to do something a little different than usual and to raise awareness about the club," said event organizer Christine Page.

Tweed Rides are gaining in popularity across the country, Page said, but this was the first in St. Petersburg.

"I had seen a video of the ride in Washington, D.C., and thought it would be a perfect Shuffleboard Club event," she said. "The club is dedicated to promoting outdoor recreation. Cycling in a tweed suit fits right in. Plus, argyle kneesocks look fantastic next to our 1920s buildings and hex blocks."

For those who missed it, Page said the club is planning another Tweed Ride later this year.

• • •

The shelves at the St. Petersburg Free Clinic's Food Bank are looking pretty bare.

"Yes, we are in need of donations," said Jane Egbert, executive director of the Free Clinic, which helps people with basic needs of food, shelter, medical care and referrals. "This is a low time for us and we're stretching what we do have."

"Our letter carrier (food) drive is scheduled for May 14, and we're really hoping that residents will be generous during that time."

Egbert stressed that some food is still on the shelves of the agency, at 863 Third Ave. N, thanks in part to Publix and Sweetbay, but the Free Clinic needs dry goods.

"The usual staples are much lower than what we usually have," she said. "We are very grateful to the groups that are generous year-round, but right now we just have a greater need."

• • •

The University of South Florida St. Petersburg will host a special event at 11 a.m. Monday to mark the groundbreaking for the Multipurpose Student Center at Harborwalk, Second Street and Sixth Avenue S.

Upon completion, the 81,000-square-foot facility will feature dining services, meeting space, an atrium and a six-story residence hall with accommodations for 196 students.

For more information, visit online at stpete.usf.edu.

Sandra J. Gadsden is assistant metro editor/community news. She can be reached at sgadsden@sptimes.com or at (727) 893-8874.

Science Center embarks on solar initiative for St. Petersburg parks 04/09/11 [Last modified: Saturday, April 9, 2011 5:31am]

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