Metro Jacksonville takes a look at this historical green property, its offerings, and the community initiative behind it.
The Jacksonville Arboretum & Gardens is a 120-acre property with an interesting history. From about 1944 to 1961, the Humphries Gold Mining Company operated strip mines in this area of Jacksonville. Despite its name, Humphries did not mine for gold here but for minerals to make titanium. These mining activities severely impacted soils and vegetation in parts of the Jacksonville Arboretum, but these areas are recovering. In the early 1970s as a condition to an EPA Grant for building the Arlington East treatment facility, the City of Jacksonville purchased the property as a passive recreation and open space buffer around the treatment plant. For the next 30 years, however, the property went unused and was sometimes abused by illegal dumping.http://www.jacksonvillearboretum.org/about-us-2/
In 2004, a group of citizens began discussions with the City to lease the property for recreational use as an arboretum. The lease was worked out, and the Jacksonville Arboretum and Gardens officially opened to the public in November 2008. At the time the Arboretum opened, there was a paved parking area, the Lake Loop, Jones Creek and Ravine trails. All of the trails, benches, board walks, and picnic tables in the Arboretum were built by volunteers from the community.
This community action has led to several awards: The park's Loblolly-Bay species was recognized by the American Forests National Register of Big Trees; The Canopy Award for Civic Excellence; HandsOn Jacksonville's 2010 HandsOn Earth Award; and recognition by 'Keep Jacksonville Beautiful' and the COJ.
The Jacksonville Arboretum & Gardens is made up of six trails, whose terrains are rated easiest to most difficult, and several points of interest, including a lake, creek, tidal marsh, and seasonal pond. The trails, Lake Loop (1/3 mile); Jones Creek (1/3 mile); Lower Ravine (1/10 mile); Upper Ravine (1/3 mile); Live Oak (1/2 mile); and Rosemary Ridge and Scrub (1 mile), combine to offer plentiful exercise terrain. A main focus of the Arboretum is the promotion of healthy living through its 'Steps To Health'; on informational boards posted at the entrance of the park are the number of steps the average adult and child will take on each trail. The park even had a 'Step Out in Nature' fun and fitness competition for Arlington-area public elementary schools recently. All of these combine to inform a study that walking 10,000 steps a day leads to sustainable weight control and cardiovascular health. A yoga class held one Saturday a month at the park has recently been put on hold, but access to cyber Yoga stations are located around Lake Loop Trail for instructional steps and guides. Other regular activities include 'Saturday Workdays' on the second of each month from 9am-noon for hands-on trail work; and 'A Walk in the Woods' the fourth Saturday of each month with a guide (fitness walk at 8am and nature walk at 9:30am). A public restroom and water fountain are found in the parking lot area, and resting benches are scattered on each trail. Below, a phototour of the outdoor space, and additional details of each trail.
On a personal, biased note, the Arboretum is a must-see in the city; takes you back to a grade-school field trip excursion, poison ivy and bright eyes and all. It's a beautiful, unexpected place to spend the day, explore, get a great workout, have a picnic, and reflect.
Central and easiest Lake Loop Trail. This trail encircles the space's Lake Ray, and has a 25-foot elevation change. The park's other five trails all branch off from this one.
The start of the Ravine Trails before they split off. The lower, shortest trail is peaceful, encircling a small island on the ravine's floor. The upper is heavily forested with spacious views of the park.
Species are frequently labeled throughout the park.
One of the more difficult trails, Jones Creek winds through a basin, and traverses several creeks, bridges, and overlooking bluff.
Bridge over Jones Creek.
A more difficult trail and the lengthiest, Rosemary Ridge inhabits several species, vistas, and dangerous wildlife (i.e snakes).
Live Oak is a moderate scaled trail home to 100+ year old Live Oaks. Its known for seasonal flowers as well.
Visiting The Arboretum
The Arboretum & Gardens is free and open to the public during daylight hours seven days a week (typically 8am-5pm, -7pm during daylight savings). As a non-profit, a membership ($25 Student/Senior; $35 Indv.; $55 Family) helps keep it running. With such, discounted/free admission to events and programs, and other benefits, are rewarded. Volunteers are always welcome to help with programs or continuing upkeep of the park. Any group is welcome to set up a guided tour with one of the park's naturalists.
There is no fishing, biking is limited to the paved lot, and dogs are allowed with a leash on all trails except for the Rosemary Scrub portion of the same-name trail.
The Arboretum & Gardens is located at 1445 Millcoe Rd., accessible via Monument Rd.
For more info visit: http://www.jacksonvillearboretum.org/
Article by Sarah Gojekian.