For Thomas Hallock, the creeks, streams and springs that drain into Tampa Bay tell as many human stories as they do environmental.
Which is why the USF St. Petersburg campus English Professor is navigating the entire flow of Booker and Salt Creeks that meander through south St. Petersburg to raise awareness of their importance to the region. He will do so by wading in or kayaking these bodies of water, and when necessary portaging his vessel around manmade obstacles that have arisen over the decades to alter the creeks’ natural flows.
All the while, he and colleague Amanda Hagood, an Animal Studies instructor at Eckerd College who will join Hallock on some excursions, will talk with residents and write dispatches on the complicated history and present-day communities around these storied waterways.
“I have been focusing my writing lately on springs, and found that by looking at a spring it can take you to bigger issues of environmental justice and beyond,” Hagood said.
Over the next two years, they are producing a series of stories for Creative Loafing, which they hope will be as interesting and diverse as the creeks and springs they will cover. USF Libraries is chronicling all of Hallock, Hagood and other interested writers’ stories on a creekshed story map.
Hallock detailed this plan recently when announcing the creekshed project in Creative Loafing:
“Imagine a reverse letter "C" over the lower part of the Pinellas peninsula, with the Booker and Salt Creeks conjoined like Siamese twins by USF St. Pete. Start at the headwaters of Booker Creek—somewhere in the north 30s (Avenue and Street). Under city parks, linked by sewers, lie the remnants of a creek's headwaters. I'll follow the stream into the city's history, beneath the Interstate, past Tropicana Field and African-American neighborhoods that were razed in the name of urban renewal, through leafy Roser Park, and into Bayboro Harbor.
From Bayboro Harbor, I will switch course and paddle up Salt Creek—through the Bartlett Park and Harbordale neighborhoods, into Lake Maggiore, to the sandy spine underneath Interstate 275, where the creek has its source and where a gas station is now being built. From the west side of 34th Street, I will trace the outer reaches of Clam Bayou to the dredged channel off the Gulfport marina.”
Though he and Hagood had been thinking of writing a series of stories that unify around the waterways that drain into Tampa Bay for some time, it was this past summer’s historic red tide that created a sense of urgency.
“Reading reports of millions of dead fish, and seeing many wash up on Lassing Park where I live close by sort of crystallized the importance of doing this series now,” Hallock said.
To further shine a spotlight on these often-overlooked inlets and how they are so intertwined with the history of the region, the non-profit Friends of Salt Creek has organized Take Me to the Water(s). This community event and multimedia installation will feature the work of resident writers, artists and poets who participated in a nature workshop organized by the non-profit last summer and supported by a grant from the Tampa Bay Estuary Program.
“Salt Creeks cuts across a half dozen different neighborhoods. We thought with an event like this, can we pull together all those communities to talk about a range of issues through a range of mediums,” Hallock said.
The installation will feature photography and video curated by artist Saudade Toxosi, writing by USF English Instructor Geveryl Robinson, a collage of historic sources by Hallock and soundscapes by south St. Petersburg poet Sabrina Dalla Valle.
Take Me to the Water(s) will take place at the USF St. Petersburg campus Harbor Hall Gallery on March 28-31 from 3pm to 7pm each day.