Trails and the Arts Award

2008 - Pinellas County Environmental Lands Division

This award recognizes outstanding public art projects, interpretive signs, or other creative structures associated with trail-related improvements.

Art and interpretation along hiking trails at Weedon Island Preserve

The Division’s immersive and experiential approach to environmental education will hopefully inspire the residents of Pinellas County to adopt an ethic of individual stewardship, becoming active conservation stewards for Real Florida.

Through an integration of art and science, visitors are presented with thought-provoking information along the trails managed by Pinellas County’s Environmental Lands Division. When combined with interactive elements and engaging design, this discovery-based strategy creates a meaningful and dynamic learning experience for people of all ages and learning styles.

During recent years, the ELD has developed a multi-tiered approach to education in an effort to empower citizens to make sound management decisions for the County’s natural and cultural resources. By demonstrating how people and their environment have supported and shaped each other through time, the ELD’s education efforts seek to connect residents and visitors to their surroundings through its indoor and outdoor programs and facilities. This information focuses on a call to action for individual stewardship of Pinellas County's natural resources.

Major components of the education plan include interpretive trail signage, permanent interior exhibit galleries, and educational programs and workshops, all linked together in a comprehensive conservation curriculum. In 2007, Weedon Island Preserve and Booker Creek Preserve (BCP) installed a series of interpretive signs to enhance portions of their hiking trails. Utilizing sculptural elements, original illustrations, and beautiful photography, these signs combine art and science to convey the main message that everything in nature is connected through a system of dynamic and evolving relationships. Award-wining exhibit galleries provide interactive and engaging multi-sensory educational opportunities that reinforce this idea of connectivity. In addition, both education centers contain classrooms, laboratories, resource centers, and auditoriums for a variety of field- and classroom-based learning experiences. These programs immerse tens of thousands of visitors annually in the natural world, creating an intimate connection between people and Real Florida.

Life cycles and connections along with human history are explored in a series of signs

Life cycles and connections along with human history are explored in a series of signs

To encourage visitor interaction with the signs, emphasis was placed on creating custom fabrication and illustrations to add visual interest to the written content. Whenever possible, concepts were illustrated with graphics as opposed to text. Weedon Island Preserve and BCP have very different landscapes; therefore, it was important to create signs with some elements that united them, while maintaining the characteristics, content, and aesthetics of the distinct natural lands and waterways that they represent. Original illustrations and stanchion designs are common to all signs to create a cohesive feel between the preserves.

BCP is Pinellas County’s largest natural area at approximately 8,000 acres. Located in the northeastern corner of the County, it extends westward to the Anclote River. Forested wetlands, oak hammocks, pine flatwoods, cypress domes, and swamps are the primarily ecosystems. The Preserve protects a significant portion of the watershed of Brooker Creek, a major input to Lake Tarpon.

Over four miles of hiking trails wind through the Preserve, enhanced by 15 interpretive trail signs (and two sculptures) with dimensional elements and interactive components to create a multi-sensory experience for visitors. Water is one of the uniting factors of these signs, whether small water drops on an illustration of a saw palmetto or an interpretive bronze sculpture of Brooker Creek with some of its notable fauna. The signs help visitors to regain a sense of Real Florida and, simultaneously, to learn how to reduce their overall ecological impact inside the Brooker Creek Watershed. Nine more signs are planned for installation in 2008 to expand the interpretive theme.

"Metamorphosis:" whirls of glass and metal that represent the intimate connections among all living things

"Metamorphosis:" whirls of glass and metal that represent the intimate connections among all living things

In addition, a partnership with the Public Art and Design Program of Pinellas County Cultural Affairs led to the installation of 50 feet of swirling metal and glass along the boardwalk at the Preserve in late 2004. The sculpture, entitled Metamorphosis, begins with a cluster of spindles that represent native plants, wild animals, and humans.

The spindles swirl around the visitor and eventually transform into a ring of unity, illustrating an intimate cycle of life found at the Preserve, including people. Altogether, more than four miles of meandering trails are available to hikers along with 14 miles of trails for horseback riders.

Life cycles and connections are also explored in a series of 20 signs along 2.7 miles of hiking trails at Weedon Island Preserve. Located on an expansive 3,000-acre tract on Tampa Bay in north St. Petersburg, the Preserve is comprised mostly of marine and coastal communities with some upland ecosystems. Weedon Island also provides a 4-mile, self-guided paddling trail for kayak- and canoe-enthusiasts.

The Preserve protects this wide diversity of natural and cultural resources for future generations, giving visitors a glimpse of natural and human history that spans over 7,000 years. With such an expansive history of human habitation, it was critical that the interpretive signs at Weedon Island Preserve help tell the story of how humans and their environment are connected.

Imagery of weaving is used throughout the entire signage program to reinforce this idea. All signs have organic shapes to encourage visitors to think “outside the box” of typical trail signs. Photographs of cultural artifacts and natural landscapes are paired with illustrations of modern technology to inspire creative thinking through the use of metaphor and simile.


More winners of this award

2015: City of Redmond

2013: High Trestle Trail Steering Committee and Partners

2010: Slavic Village Development and Cleveland Public Art and Parkworks

2006: Back to the River, Inc., Iowa

2004: Connecticut Impressionist Art Trail