Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

City budget cuts threaten McGough Nature Park in Largo

The McGough Nature Park in Largo is home to live reptile exhibits, owls and a turtle pond.

DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times (2009)

The McGough Nature Park in Largo is home to live reptile exhibits, owls and a turtle pond.

It's a hot Thursday, and Walsingham Road is its usual sunbaked drag, the McDonald's and KFC drive-throughs along it clogged.

But a few blocks from the bridge to Indian Rocks, next to the shimmering Intracoastal Waterway, is a hamlet of what Pinellas County once was, tall pines and palmettos, still pristine amid the strip mall stretches that so much of the county has become.

Trails there wind through pine-scented hammock, butterflies the size of a man's fist flutter in the sunlight, and banks of wildflowers spring from the soil in the shade.

The din of cars is stifled by the trees. A boardwalk that juts through mangrove thickets is as quiet as the egrets that stalk the shore.

While Largo has many outdoor attractions, the McGough Nature Park is one of the city's most complete, its nature center stocked with live reptile exhibits, a great horned owl enclosure and a nearby turtle pond to add something extra to the park's education programs.

But as Largo faces its fourth consecutive year of budget cuts, the paradise of McGough could soon be deprived of its centerpiece — the Nature Center — that is treasured by many residents.

Visiting the center for, like, the "thousandth" time, Dathan Catlin, 6, peers at the albino rat snake kept under glass inside the center.

"Look! It's moving!" he shouts.

"Don't tap the glass," says his mom, Danielle Lemons.

Dathan's favorite exhibit, though, is the replica of a sandhill crane, a red-headed bird that stands taller than he does.

Hearing the child from her office, Barbara Stalbird smiles.

"That's the heart of it," she said.

In the coming months, Stalbird, who has been directing the center for seven years, may no longer have a job, along with one other part-time employee.

The cost to keep the center for another year is about $120,000, though through various programs and donations, the park generates about $68,000 in revenue. That means the city needs to come up with $52,000 or so to keep it going. But with each city department forced to make difficult choices, closing the Nature Center has become the lesser of several evils.

"They have to find the money from somewhere," Stalbird said.

Some residents have written letters, pleading for Largo leaders to find a way to keep the center open.

"Please don't close McGough Nature Center," wrote Cynthia Stone, a teacher at Anona Elementary School. "It is a favorite place of our family to go. We love to visit the turtles and see the owl and all the great exhibits. Please, please don't close this wonderful park."

But other city residents feel the city shouldn't be spending money on anything but necessities, like the fire and police departments.

"Anything beyond those duties are considered luxuries," Newell Toth wrote in a letter to commissioners. "I take great offense at everyone having a big party on my dime when I am struggling."

Parks director Joan Byrne said the Nature Center is on the reduction list her department sent to the city. But over the next several months, as commissioners decide what to finally cut, it could be saved.

"At any point between now and the end of September, anything in that document could change," Byrne said.

Lemons said she hopes so.

"There's not a lot of places like this where kids can get an education about the outdoors," Lemons said. "This place is really fun and great in everything that matters."

Dominick Tao can be reached at dtao@sptimes.com or (727) 580-2951.

City budget cuts threaten McGough Nature Park in Largo 06/12/10 [Last modified: Friday, June 11, 2010 4:46pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Trump reveals that he didn't record Comey after all

    Politics

    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump declared Thursday he never made and doesn't have recordings of his private conversations with ousted former FBI director James Comey, ending a monthlong guessing game that he started with a cryptic tweet and that ensnared his administration in yet more controversy.

    President Donald Trump said Thursday that he didn’t record his conversations with James Comey.
  2. Lightning fans, don't get attached to your first-round draft picks

    Lightning Strikes

    CHICAGO — When Lightning GM Steve Yzerman announces his first-round pick tonight in the amateur draft at No. 14, he'll invite the prospect onto the stage for the once-in-a-lifetime photo opportunity.

    Tampa Bay Lightning left wing Jonathan Drouin (27) eludes  Montreal Canadiens left wing Phillip Danault (24) during the second period of Wednesday???‚??„?s (12/28/16) game between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Montreal Canadiens at the Amalie Arena in Tampa.
  3. Investigation Discovery TV show profiles 2011 Landy Martinez murder case

    Crime

    The murder of a St. Petersburg man will be featured this week on a new true crime series Murder Calls on Investigation Discovery.

    Jose Adame sits in a Pinellas County courtroom during his 2016 trial and conviction for first-degree murder. Adame was convicted of first-degree murder last year for torturing and then executing his boyfriend as he pleaded for his life in 2011. Now it will be featured in a new true crime series Murder Calls on Investigation Discovery. The episode will air on June 26 at 9 p.m. [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD   |   Times]
  4. Uhuru mayoral candidate Jesse Nevel protests exclusion from debate

    Blogs

    ST. PETERSBURG — Jesse Nevel, the International People’s Democratic Uhuru Movement candidate for mayor, on Thursday demanded that he be allowed to participate in a July 25 televised debate between incumbent Mayor Rick Kriseman and challenger Rick Baker.

    Mayoral candidate Jesse Nevel holds a news conference outside the headquarters of the Tampa Bay Times on Thursday to protest his exclusion from the mayoral debate. Nevel is a member of the International People’s Democratic Uhuru Movement.
  5. Lightning GM Steve Yzerman also has top-9 wing on his wish list

    Lightning Strikes

    CHICAGO — Much has been made about the Lightning's interest in bolstering its blue line, even after last week's acquisition of defense prospect Mikhail Sergachev.

    Tampa Bay Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman gestures as he speaks to the media about recent trades during a news conference before an NHL hockey game against the Carolina Hurricanes Wednesday, March 1, 2017, in Tampa, Fla. The Lightning, over the past few days, have traded goaltender Ben Bishop to the Los Angeles Kings, forward Brian Boyle to the Toronto Maple Leafs, and forward Valtteri Filppula to the Philadelphia Flyers. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara) TPA101