If I could drive a straight road from my house to the ocean, that road would be eight miles long. Instead, the city of Jacksonville’s powers that be (and powers that have been) probably never imagined that the Oceanway neighborhood of Jacksonville’s Northside would explode in population like it has over the last decade and a half. This leaves our section of the city as the only one without a direct route to the beach. That eight miles is, in reality, a 23-mile long route north and then east, usually leaving me to drive behind logging trucks or slow people. As it may be, North Florida is chockfull of both.
Luckily, I can find solace elsewhere. My happy place is at the beach so this is in no way a denunciation of the ocean’s healing and soothing ways, but a 23-mile drive to the Atlantic isn’t always practical. So when a friend of mine recently introduced me to one of the city’s best-kept secrets, I couldn’t wait to learn more about it. The Jacksonville Arboretum is a mesmerizing oasis of greenery and quiet and perfect for those of us that require nature’s therapy in heavy doses. The best part? It’s only a 10-minute drive from my house.
Some history: Between 1941-1961, Humphries Gold Mining Company stripped the area of zircon and the minerals used to make titanium. The property was depleted of so much of its nutrients that the soil became white sand and the locals soon came to call it The Dunes. After the city of Jacksonville took over the property, it was left alone to act as a buffer to the water reclamation facility located nearby. For approximately thirty years, nature did what nature does and, as a result, these 120 acres became home to 13 ecosystems, each different and distinct in its own way. In 2006, a volunteer force began leasing the property from the city and continues to maintain the arboretum to this day.
The Jacksonville Arboretum offers 6 separate trails – each with different elevations, difficulty levels, ecosystems, and nature views. My friend and I were only able to make our way around three of them: the Upper Ravine Trail (1/3 mile and moderate); the Lower Ravine Trail (1/10 mile and moderate); and the Lake Loop Trail (1/3 mile and easiest). It is free and open to the public during daylight hours, seven days a week.
To see all of my photos from our Jacksonville Arboretum PhotoWalk, click here.
I also read in the March 2012 issue of Void Magazine that the Jacksonville Arboretum will be hosting “A Brush With Nature” on March 29-31. This is an event in which local artists will set up and paint scenes from around the park and park visitors are welcome to come and watch them create these nature-inspired pieces of art (and stroll the grounds, of course!). Workshops, nature walks, food, and live music will also be available – as will the artwork! All proceeds will benefit the artist and the arboretum.