Thursday, Dec 18, 2014

Hill: Walter Fuller Park is a real jewel

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Back in September when I began this column, I asked for reader input about special places in St. Petersburg that I could write about.

Jo Jensen, who lives in the Jungle area of the city, suggested Walter Fuller Park as a topic. It took us until earlier this week to meet at what her family considers its “Central Park.”

Although there is no Strawberry Fields memorializing John Lennon of the Beatles at Walter Fuller and no towering buildings ringing the green space, the lovely area has a welcoming feel and a whole host of amenities that make it stand out.

Jensen, a retired teacher, wrote in her initial email: “I’m not sure I want to give away our secret, but it is a jewel in St. Pete.”

Bounded on the east by 75th Street, 80th Street on the west, 26th Avenue on the south and 30th Avenue on the north, the 133-acre jewel features a lovely lake, a recreation center, a pool, a dog park and a full range of athletic fields.

Jensen and her family visit several times a week. “I love to walk and talk there with my husband and friends. It’s beautiful and peaceful any time of day or evening.”

Jensen has a personal attachment to the park. A proud aunt, she says that her nephew Jason Jensen, a principal in the architectural firm Wannemacher Jensen, was involved in the park’s renovation a few years ago. The firm developed the master plan.

“He made it beautiful,” she said.

We met at a bench to the north of the pool on a chilly afternoon this past week.

The bench overlooks the lake, and other areas of the park are visible from it.

Jensen pointed out various gems in the area, including covered decks with benches that jut out over the water.

She also boasted about the flower garden and sculptures of children on the northeast side of the lake.

(To see photos of some of these areas, visit www.stpete parksrec.org.)

Jo and her husband, Ken, a retired engineer, have four adult children and four grandsons. Two grandsons live in the area.

“They love to come here and play on the playground and feed the ducks and turtles,” she said. “We love watching them discover many of the creatures God has made right here around the lake. It’s especially wonderful to see the baby ducklings in the spring.”

Jensen said the entire park is special.

“Lots of majestic trees and big grassy areas, places for family activities; the playground, running activities and even picnics. We see people doing various types of exercise, including moms with their babies in strollers getting together for an exercise group. People walking their dogs. It’s such a beautiful setting with the lake and the trees and the ducks.”

There are special benches for relaxing, and lookouts over the water — and lighting for the evening.

In other words, it’s a special place to be shared by folks who will appreciate it.

And even on a chilly day while we chatted, a group of girls sat nearby on one of the decks overlooking the water. A man with three dogs walked by, and a couple with a baby in a stroller power-walked around the lake.

It was obvious why Jensen is so fond and proud of the park. It is a jewel. Visit if you haven’t. It’s worth the trip.

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