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Growing up in St. Pete

by Jack McKyton, Tyke Hike intern

Many cities have a centerpiece that identifies that city to its inhabitants and visitors. Imagine the Hollywood sign in Los Angeles or the Eiffel Tower in Paris. For my hometown of St. Petersburg, Florida, it is the great outdoors - the Gulf, bays, beaches and wetlands - that serve as the centerpiece of our community.

St. Petersburg is a diverse city, whose citizens encompass a vast range of nationalities, ideologies, and backgrounds. In such a community, it may first appear that it would be difficult for such a diverse body to find a way to connect. Fortunately, the picturesque natural environments of St. Petersburg make connection possible. Every summer, thousands of people flock to the beaches or the Pier to soak in some sun, enjoy the ocean and feel at ease. These habits have given my city a laid-back reputation among travelers, and I find that St. Petersburg effortlessly lives up to its hype.

A centerpiece, however, is only as great as its neighbors treat and respect it. Thankfully, I can say that the people of my city fight for the protection of St. Pete’s natural beauty. When our beaches were plagued with a Red Tide, we organized rallies and protests to reduce the fertilizer runoff that sprouted the toxic algal bloom. When the mayor of St. Petersburg dropped tons of wastewater into Tampa Bay, he was condemned widely by his colleagues and the residents. And when Hurricane Irma ravaged my community over six years ago, members of my community were out the very next day to clean up the debris left by the storm.

The values of my community shaped me into an avid environmentalist as an adult, one who enjoys exploring nature while understanding the need to protect these valuable ecosystems. Now, as an intern at Tyke Hike, I hope to pass this spirit on to the children who explore Atlanta’s natural habitats. Hopefully these children in turn will be the crucial agents of change to protect our natural resources.

Photos from St. Pete (left to right): St. Pete Pier, sand dunes, pelican in mangroves.

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