Jacksonville Arboretum & Gardens
|Jacksonville Arboretum & Gardens|
|Location||1445 Millcoe Road|
|Nearest city||Jacksonville, Florida, USA|
|Area||126.82-acre (51.32 ha)|
|Created||November 15, 2008|
|Open||sunrise to sunset|
|Awards||Civic Horticultural Leadership Award
HandsOn Earth Award
The Jacksonville Arboretum & Gardens (JAG) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization and park in Jacksonville, Florida, similar to Tree Hill Nature Center, and organized for the purpose of developing a unique natural attraction on a city-owned, 126.82-acre (51.32 ha) site. The arboretum officially opened on November 15, 2008, and the Sierra Club of Northeast Florida stated, "Development of this park is truly a community project of a size and scope never before undertaken by a volunteer organization."
Between 1941 and 1961, the Humphries Gold Mining Company harvested zircon and other minerals required for the production of titanium. Strip-mining removed organic matter and nutrients from the soil, which left white sand, barren of vegetation. After mining ended, it became an urban wild and unofficial dump site for appliances, cars, tires and other junk.
The city of Jacksonville purchased the property for use as a buffer from a wastewater treatment plant during the 1970s, and left alone for thirty years, 13 separate ecosystems developed, including oak hammock, fresh water ravine, upland sand hill and salt marsh.
A group of conservation-minded nature lovers recognized the site's value and founded the Jacksonville Arboretum & Gardens (JAG) as a non-profit organization in March, 2004. Professionals with knowledge of science, nature or design were recruited for the board of directors.
In 2006, the Jacksonville City Council approved bill number 2006-234, which granted a 20-year lease and $250,000 to pay for paving the parking area, creating a development plan, and construction of a walking trail. The tract was surveyed and mapped, a master plan was created, support was solicited from local businesses, and volunteers began to remove dumped junk and shape the landscape.
A colony of gopher tortoises required relocation when the parking lot was constructed. While working on that project, a board member became so knowledgeable about wildlife relocation that she became licensed by the state. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission approved a location on the north side of the property as a relocation site for gopher tortoises. Area builders who need to remove the protected species from a construction site can use the JAG—for a $500 donation.
The terrain is not flat like most of Jacksonville; it has a ravine 800 feet long and sloping hills. Alligator, snakes, lizards, foxes, squirrels, turtles and armadillo make their home at JAG, as well as quail, pheasants, osprey, owls, and smaller birds.
The Lake Loop encircles two-acre Lake Ray, a spring-fed pond which formed in the 1970s. Tree species include pignut hickory, tulip poplar, loblolly pine, longleaf pine, southern magnolia, black cherry, wax myrtle and chinquapin.
The Jones Creek Trail wanders through swamp bay, tupelo, swamp dogwood, American hornbeam and bald cypress along and across Jones Creek, a tributary of the St. Johns River. Royal fern, cinnamon fern, and net leaf chain fern also abound.
The Ravine Trail follows the rim of the 185 feet wide by 25 feet deep ravine with a stream flowing at the bottom. Among the species nearby are swamp azalea, black walnut, and the national champion loblolly-bay.
JAG received a $15,000 Florida Urban and Community Forestry Grant for 2010-11 that was matched by over 4,700 hours from volunteers. The money paid for 400 trees and plants which were planted by volunteers, and facilitated completion of the Rosemary Ridge Trail, which opened on JAG's second anniversary. According to JAG Executive Director Carlton Higginbotham, "(The one mile trail) goes through some really sensitive ecological areas. There are tall pines and palmettos and a place in the park a few weeks ago where I saw a bobcat, so we have some real wildlife out there. It is also the place where you can stumble on a rattlesnake, so we ask people to keep their eyes open."
Informational signs can be found throughout the passive park that identify tree species and wildlife. Point of interest codes are also posted for scanning by visitors with a Smartphone. Ron Littlepage, a columnist for the Florida Times-Union called it "one of our area's great parks".
The second Saturday of each month was designated as volunteer work day, but individual groups have completed special projects at other times. A LDS Church erected a bridge, Boy Scouts have constructed boardwalks and benches, and park signs were donated by Greenscape. Work on public restrooms to replace the park's portable toilets has been ongoing, as well as making the Lake Loop trail ADA accessible. As well, University of North Florida's own Wizard Tribe Invasive Species Removal group removed a large portion of a dangerous invasive species, the Peruvian Primrose Willow. This plant is responsible for hypoxia in the streams along the lower ravine trail.
The Conceptual Master Site Plan is a wish list for the next decade and beyond. It includes a butterfly/hummingbird garden, visitor center, amphitheater, research facility, ethno-botanical garden, an event lawn, a native garden, specimen collections and a wildlife observatory. Access and parking on the north side of the park from Merrill Road is also projected.
Future trails include an historic railway interpretive trail, a maple wetland boardwalk, a sand ridge trail, seasonal pond trail, wetland boardwalk, ravine south ridge trail, a ravine boardwalk, a tidal wetlands boardwalk, a loblolly/fern glen trail, and a xeric scrub forest trail.
In late September 2010, thieves broke into the on-site storage container and stole all of JAG's gas-powered tools, including a backpack blower, hand blower, chainsaw, and two weed wackers. They also took the organization's All-terrain vehicle. The $10,000 loss was not covered by insurance. None of the gear was ever recovered, but most of the equipment was replaced by generous individuals.
The Jacksonville Arboretum and Gardens was honored with the Civic Horticultural Leadership Award from Greenscape of Jacksonville at Mayor John Peyton's Environmental Luncheon on April 3, 2009. JAG was also the recipient of the 2010, HandsOn Earth Award from HandsOn Jacksonville.
- "1445 Millcoe Road" Duval County Property Appraiser
- "Jacksonville Arboretum & Gardens Grand Opening" Florida Sierra Club, November 2008
- "Jacksonville Arboretum & Gardens" Garden Traveller website
- Scanlan, Dan: "Jacksonville Arboretum and Gardens opens new nature trail Sunday" Florida Times-Union, November 18, 2010
- Littlepage, Ron: "Great Jacksonville parks: Jacksonville Arboretum & Gardens" Florida Times-Union, November 3, 2011
- "Behind the Scenes: The Jacksonville Arboretum and Gardens" University of North Florida, Continuing Education opportunities
- Kormanik, Beth: "Arlington shares its natural serenity" Florida Times-Union, March 28, 2006
- "City Council meeting agenda" Florida Times-Union, March 28, 2006
- "History" Jacksonville Arboretum & Gardens website, About
- Rabhan, Anna: "A brush with nature" EU Jacksonville, April 23, 2011
- Reese, Rhonda: "Arboretum will show off improvement with celebration" Florida Times-Union, October 25, 2008
- Capitano, Laura: "Jacksonville Aboretum is a pastoral place" Florida Times-Union, April 30, 2009
- "Grant helps Jacksonville Arboretum and Gardens develop new trail, improve programs" Florida Times-Union, August 17, 2011
- "Conceptual Master Site Plan" Jacksonville Arboretum & Gardens website
- Scanlan, Dan: "Jacksonville Arboretum landscaping tools stolen in burglary" Florida Times-Union, September 28, 2010
- Patterson, Steve: "A little applause for area's environmentalists" Florida Times-Union, April 4, 2009
- Heal, Evan: "Jacksonville Arboretum and Gardens wins HandsOn Earth award for work" Florida Times-Union, April 18, 2010