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St Pete has been my adopted home for over 15 years now. Yes, it's full of redneck goobers and militia kooks (our current Mayor is a creationist), but it's still a gorgeous place to live. Even though the City of St Pete has a quarter million people, and the greater St Pete area has almost one million, the many parks and open green areas, and the lack of skyscraper buildings, give the city a "small town" feel. Here's a quick photo tour of the St Pete area and Pinellas County.

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One of the local beaches. The touristy beaches are located on the barrier islands. This one is located near downtown, and is used mostly by residents of the nearby condos.

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The St Pete Pier. A local landmark. The "inverted pyramid" was built in the 70's. A couple years ago, the city decided to tear it down and replace it with a new design, citing age-related structural issues. In response, a group of local citizens submitted a referendum ballot to decide whether to replace the Pier or to repair the existing inverted pyramid. When the submitters made a technical mistake in the submission process, the Mayor announced that he would honor it and hold the referendum anyway--then a week later changed his mind and invalidated the submission. In response, citizens submitted a new petition within weeks, and got the referendum on the ballot, where the vote was 2-1 to stop the new design.

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The St Pete waterfront.

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The Vinoy Hotel. Part of the original land boom back in the 20's, the Vinoy has been recently expanded.

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A local fisherman, besieged by Brown Pelicans hoping to steal his baitfish.

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The Howard Frankland Bridge, one of three 20-mile bridges that cross Tampa Bay and connect Tampa with St Pete. They are actually causeways made from dredged material, with a bridge at the center to allow ships to pass under.

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The beach that runs alongside the Gandy Bridge causeway. Used mostly by locals, it is jokingly referred to as the "Redneck Riviera".

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North Straub Park.  City ordinance forbids any development along the waterfront, so there is a continuous strip of green along Tampa Bay.  Most of it is city parks.

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A Spoonbill and an Egret hunting in a roadside drainage ditch.

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The St Pete Museum of History. A small local museum.

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The Mahaffey Theater and, behind it, the Salvador Dali Museum. In an effort to appeal to high-end tourists, St Pete has been presenting itself as a center for the arts.

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Museum of Fine Arts.

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St Pete waterfront.

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Boyd Hill Nature Preserve, located in the center of St Pete.

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Boyd Hill..

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Sawgrass Lake Wildlife Refuge.  This is an Anhinga.

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Sawgrass Lake.  White Ibis.

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View of St Pete from Tampa Bay.

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Many of the small islands out in Tampa Bay are designated as Bird Refuges.  Humans are forbidden to land there.

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A fisherman out in the Bay.  Tampa Bay averages only ten feet deep; at low tide, it is possible to wade out a hundred yards or more.

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A cargo boat out in the Bay. There is a dredged channel that allows cargo boats and cruise ships to enter the Port of Tampa.

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Snell Island.  One of the wealthier parts of town. Generally, the closer your house is to the water, the more expensive it is.

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This inlet is known as Coffeepot Bayou. It's a great place to go sea kayaking--lots of birds, dolphins fairly often, and sharks once in a while.

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Downtown St Pete.  Mostly high-end bistros and shops. St Pete is not aimed at the non-wealthy tourist.

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The Yacht Club, on the waterfront.

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The Municipal Marina.

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One of the St Pete Trolleys. One set of trolleys circles around downtown; another runs along all the beaches from Pass-a-Grille Beach to Clearwater Beach.

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Demens Landing.

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Sailboats and a couple of sea kayaks out on the Bay.

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Mud flats.  At low tide, the anaerobic bacteria that live in the sand are uncovered, and release the unforgettable aroma of hydrogen sulfide.

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South Straub Park.  Occupy St Pete used to have its GA's under the big red sculpture.

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A number of canals crisscross the city. They function as a drainage system to channel rainwater runoff out into Tampa Bay. Occasionally, manatees wander in; a few years ago, a person was killed by a shark while swimming in one of the canals.

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St Pete's water tower.

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An Osprey eating a fish atop a city streetlight.

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Albert Whitted Airport. A small airfield for general aviation, it offers helicopter and biplane rides to the tourists. A few years ago, the city tried to close the airport down; a group of citizens who feared that the land would be put up for sale, organized a referendum vote to save the airport, and won.

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The control tower.  The landing approach is from over the Bay, and there is a seawall literally right at the end of the runway; every few years, somebody lands short and hits the seawall.

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College campus. It used to be known as the "St Pete Campus of the University of South Florida". In an effort to differentiate itself, it lobbied to be separated from the USF, and is now its own entity, known as "St Pete College".

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The Holocaust Museum. Not very large, alas; its centerpiece is an original railroad cattle car from the Treblinka death camp.

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The Red Chairs.  Outdoors art downtown.

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Williams Park.  Sometimes referred to as "Homeless Park". It used to be where all the homeless folks in St Pete gathered during the day. When the Republican Convention came here, the city passed a number of ordinances to kick them out, banning everything from "panhandling" to "reclining in a park". Since this is a major hub for the city buses, some homeless still hang around--the cops come by every once in a while and roust them out.

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Baywalk Plaza.  It was once the scene of a surreal political fight. When local gay rights and antiwar groups began using the public sidewalk here for rallies and protests, the city passed an ordinance outlawing demonstrations. When the demonstrators sued on First Amendment grounds and won, the city dropped that ordinance, then passed another one banning any protest signs larger than one foot square. When they lost THAT lawsuit too, the city tried to donate the entire sidewalk to one of the businesses in the plaza, arguing that as "private property", protests would then not be allowed there. Before THAT could go to court, the Plaza went broke and was bought by a local Republican Party bigwig, who is now remodeling the whole plaza.

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The Old Northeast. This was the original area of St Petersburg, nestled up against the water. It still has the old brick-cobble streets, and many of the houses here date to the 1910's and 20's. It's a very wealthy, but also very liberal and active, part of town.

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Countryside Mall. The surreal scene of tourists ice-skating in a mall.  In Florida.  In August.  You should see people when the zamboni comes out.

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Sunken Gardens. A landscaped garden of exotic plants, inside a massive sinkhole. It was the earliest tourist attraction in St Pete, but a few years ago it went broke and was bought by the city and is now run as a historical landmark. The Great Explorations Children's Museum is next door.

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A typical street in St Pete. (Actually it's the street I live on.) The houses tend to be small, and there aren't very many tall buildings, since the "soil" here is mostly sand and there's not much suitable bedrock to support large buildings.

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Round Lake Park.  Just a few blocks from my apartment.  That big banyan tree in the background is my favorite spot to sit, roll out my solar-powered laptop, and work on manuscripts all afternoon, taking an occasional break to feed the turtles. If I'm posting here during the day, there's a decent chance that this is where I'm sitting.  :)

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