All photos via WK Preservation Group

The WK Preservation Group is helping to save “slices of paradise” in Pinellas

A Jimmy Buffett-themed fundraiser on Thursday, May 19, will raise money for the West Klosterman Preserve and other parts of Pinellas County.

To help save the vanishing wilderness in Florida’s most densely populated county, the West Klosterman Preservation Group (WKPG) has announced a festive Jimmy Buffett-themed benefit that will take place on Thursday, May 19 from 6:30 to 9:30 pm at Sea Sea Riders in Dunedin. The public is invited to join grassroots organizers, neighbors, friends, concerned citizens and VIPs to help save “slices of paradise” starting with the West Klosterman Preserve and growing from there to other parts of Pinellas County. 

While speaking to a gathering of supporters during a recent fundraiser in Tarpon Springs, WKPG President Tex Carter said, “We take on this challenge for our kids and grandkids to help the animals and preserve the plants and trees in our precious slice of paradise in Pinellas County.”

Tex and Kay Carter of Tarpon Springs, seen here at a fundraiser at the SilverKing Brewing Company in Tarpon Springs, are the driving force behind the WK Preservation Group, devoting their time to help raise awareness for conservation projects throughout Tampa Bay. 

WKPG’s Vision

An organization of concerned citizens, the WK Preservation Group (WKPG) is close to succeeding in saving 14 acres of pristine and ecologically important land from becoming a condominium development. Environmental scientists have toured the property and documented more than 60 species of plants and wildlife, including gopher tortoises, flying squirrels, osprey and eagles, wood storks, an ancient and endangered Florida rosemary, giant air plants, longleaf pine and many others. Flaked chert (a type of silica-rich rock often used as a tool in ancient cultures) is a common find and evidence of native living areas. The Preserve is coastal upland adjacent to the 76-acre Mariner’s Point Management Area (MPMA), an environmental lowland preservation area owned by Pinellas County, and has functioned as one ecosystem with the MPMA for over a hundred years. 

Success in saving the Preserve leads to:

  • Protection for rare, threatened, and endangered wildlife
  • Promoting groundwater recharge and improving surface water quality
  • Avoiding increased stress on overcrowded roads and infrastructure
  • Preserving irreplaceable land for generations

Success in saving the Preserve will enable WKPG to continue to identify and work with county and state authorities on future conservation projects.

Background

The Pinellas County School District purchased the West Klosterman land from the Diocese of St. Petersburg in 1996 with an eye toward building a school or other educational facility. After determining the property was not needed, the School Board voted to put the land up for sale. A developer expressed interest, and the school board agreed to sell the land to the developer for $3.3 million. A nearby resident noticed people gathered at the property’s gate in January 2020 and learned of the agreement. This discovery led to formation of the WK Preservation Group as a 501(c)(3) charity that has led a campaign to save the West Klosterman Preserve for over two years. In that time, WKPG has united over 1,000 supporters and donors to commit to saving the Preserve, and then to identify more conservation opportunities for future campaigns.

Progress for the Preserve

On June 8, 2021, after months of meetings and lobbying school board members and key county employees, the school board voted to allow the WK Preservation Group to purchase the property if it can raise the asking price of $3 million by July 1, 2022. To date, the group has raised $415,000 in pledges and donations, including a $250,000 pledge from the Indiana-based Efroymson Family Fund, and grants and pledges from organizations like the Clearwater Audubon Society, SunCoast Sierra Club, the Florida Native Plant Society, the Duckwall Foundation and from many individual donations through its website.

The growth in community support has inspired the Florida legislature to approve an appropriation of $3 million for the purchase of the WK Preserve from Pinellas County Schools to become a preserve to be owned and operated by Pinellas County. When signed by Governor DeSantis, Pinellas County, Pinellas County Schools, and WKPG will have the money to save the WK Preserve as envisioned in early 2020.

The WK Preservation Group has partnered with the Pinellas Community Foundation (PCF) to raise awareness and seek financial support. PCF was instrumental in securing the purchase of the 44-acre Gladys Douglas Hackworth Property in Dunedin and saving it from development. 

This partnership with PCF will continue as the WK Preservation Group works on future conservation projects in our region.

The WKPG Fundraising Party

Roger Bartlett.

Guests are invited for a fun night of tropical celebration that includes an auction with a variety of items, from a “Best of St. Pete” package to a Two-Night Stay & Play at Innisbrook Resort. Enjoy music by Roger Bartlett (Jimmy Buffett’s original guitarist from his Coral Reefer Band) and keyboard artist Robin Swenson (best known for his work with Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons). There will be food by Sea Sea Riders, beverages, a cash bar, and a silent auction. The ticket price of $50 per person includes music, food, and a drink ticket. Sponsor tables are available at $1,000, and will include 4 tickets to the event and sponsorship recognition in WKPG‘s website, publicity and social media pages. All proceeds go to the identification and preservation of slices of paradise in the Pinellas County area. Tickets are available at wkpreserve.com/wkpg-events/. DRESS: Florida Festive Cocktail.

Questions about the events? Send a note to events@wkpreserve.com.

Resources

WK Preservation Group website: wkpreserve.com

Pinellas Community Foundation’s West Klosterman Preserve Fund website – pinellascf.org/giving/wkpreserve-fund/