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Cigarette butts at the beach make this week’s list of Tampa Bay highlights | Editorial
So does a saved forest, Hillsborough schools and art tours for dementia patients.
Cigarette butts found during a trash cleanup in April 2022 in Redington Shores.
Cigarette butts found during a trash cleanup in April 2022 in Redington Shores. [ ARIELLE BADER | Special to the Times ]
This article represents the opinion of the Tampa Bay Times Editorial Board.
Published Sep. 17

Saving Klosterman forest. Here’s to a good cause, citizen involvement — and some timely help from Tallahassee. This month, the Joint Legislative Budget Commission awarded Pinellas County $2.5 million toward the purchase of 14 acres on W Klosterman Road, which is some of the last 1% of original scrub left in the county. For years, the West Klosterman Preservation Group, a nonprofit made up of neighbors and supporters of the land, have raised $544,000 through online campaigns, beer crawls, sign-waving events and other efforts to save the property from a housing developer’s bulldozer. The school system bought the land, which is home to threatened or endangered plant and animal species, but never developed it. Interested developers stepped up, and so did area activists, who formed the nonprofit and asked the School Board for time. This wasn’t the easiest civic effort, but the public benefit was clear. All involved should be proud for bringing this outcome to fruition.

Butt out. Pinellas County could soon be one of the first in Florida to ban smoking on its beaches. County commissioners signaled their support for a ban in the wake of a new state law that allows counties and municipalities to restrict smoking in public beaches and parks. The ban would prohibit smoking on county-controlled beach sand and dunes, but not adjacent lands such as grassy areas and campgrounds. It would apply to the county’s beach parks — Fort De Soto, Sand Key and Fred Howard — and to beach access parks co-managed by the county and municipalities. This is a great idea; the St. Petersburg City Council is set to vote soon on its own citywide ban in beaches and parks. The environmental group Keep Pinellas Beautiful says that cigarette butts are the No. 1 litter on the beach. They’re also a hazard to children and wildlife and a nuisance to those nearby. Beachgoers will still have places to smoke (how about your own car?). Enough with the public spaces being used as trash deposits.

A memory maker. The Memory Morning program at St. Petersburg’s Morean Arts Center is another reminder of the cultural fabric that enriches life in Tampa Bay. As the Tampa Bay Times’ Lane DeGregory reported, the program started about a year ago after a woman from a senior center was looking for things to do with her husband, who has dementia. The event offers free tours of the Chihuly Collection for dementia patients and their caregivers, which includes a presentation and art project. Thanks to a grant from the Area Agency on Aging of Pasco-Pinellas Inc., 54 people have taken tours so far. Participating spouses said they’re grateful to have their husbands home, but the hour of respite is a welcome break from full-on caregiving and sometimes loneliness. This program is a wonderful use of the area’s arts resources and a model for how institutions of every variety can give back. Register at www.moreanartscenter.org/accessibility or call 727-822-7872.

Sizing Hillsborough schools. It’s no surprise that many Hillsborough County parents and homeowners are opposed to sweeping changes in school boundaries. After all, neighborhood schools are a treasure; they build community identity, add to property values and provide a public resource (who provides those shelters during hurricane season?). But with scores of under-used campuses, the Hillsborough County School District faces some difficult decisions. That’s why it hired a consultant to examine boundaries and enrollments, as a first step for the district to consider a range of options, which could include school consolidations and closures. The feedback that parents offered in the first round of feedback this week previews the controversy that’s only expected to grow in the coming months. But it’s a necessary step for Hillsborough to better align its resources and needs and to redirect any savings toward student achievement.

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Editorials are the institutional voice of the Tampa Bay Times. The members of the Editorial Board are Editor of Editorials Graham Brink, Sherri Day, Sebastian Dortch, John Hill, Jim Verhulst and Chairman and CEO Conan Gallaty. Follow @TBTimes_Opinion on Twitter for more opinion news.

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