01 Nov A Crusader for the Bay
Jan Kaminis Platt was born with saltwater in her veins, thanks to a Greek grandfather still working on the Anclote River and a fishing-fanatic dad.
Jan and younger sister Bobbie Lou grew up fishing, wading and swimming the bay.
Her legacy spans more than 50 years. In 1973, when Tampa Bay’s pollution became a national media spectacle, she won a seat on Tampa City Council, determined to strengthen environmental laws. She then served 24 years on the Hillsborough County Commission, becoming a standard-bearer for the “Save The Bay” movement.
As chair of the Agency on Bay Management, Jan rallied business and community leaders, citizens and scientists to revive the bay. She helped secure Tampa Bay’s designation as an “estuary of national significance” in 1991, and with it federal funds for restoration through the Tampa Bay Estuary Program. Hillsborough County renamed its environmental land-buying program in her honor, for championing its creation and longevity.
Jan credits the bay’s recovery to cooperation over competing interests. “Once a problem was defined – whether it was cities dumping poorly treated sewage into the bay or the power plants with their brown smoke — it wasn’t fought, it was solved.”
A half-century ago, the summer stench from rotting algae in the bay was at times so strong that it was said to tarnish the silver in the stately homes of residents living along Tampa’s Toney Bayshore Boulevard.