Thursday, April 29, 2010


Today was a great day back at work.  I had some time this morning to get caught up on e-mails and current events at the park.  I made a little progress on ongoing projects and again tried to no avail to reach a very illusive person about a well testing requirement.  Mid-morning, my Park Manager and the other Assistant Park Manager and I packed some sandwiches and hit the road.  We spent the whole afternoon touring and getting to know the most distant of our park properties.  It was great to finally see the places that I have been hearing about.
Because of their locations and the absence of recreational facilities, some of the properties are not visited as often as we would like.  We had a chainsaw along for the ride and we needed it to pass one area where a tree had fallen across an interior road.

We started at the furthest area away from the main part of the park and worked our way back.  By the time we were well into the first tract that we were exploring, it was about lunch time.  My Manager had our expedition well planned, because we arrived at this cool little cabin where we could eat our packed lunches.  The property had formerly been a hunt camp and the cabin was built to house the hunters.  It was a well made cabin because it was holding up very well for being hidden away in the middle of the Florida wilderness.  Our Manager has ideas to relocate the cabin so that it can be utilized by park visitors.  It would really be a wonderful place to camp for a weekend.

The properties that we toured were mostly home sites or farm sites that were no longer used and purchased by the state for restoration and preservation.  Its interesting to see how nature takes its course with these disturbed areas.  In some places, only a well trained eye would know that people had ever been there.  In others, the damage and remnants of people were obvious.  At all of the properties, there was no shortage of wildflowers.  There were Spiderworts everywhere, one of my favorites.  We also saw quite a bit of the yellow flower below, Hypericum.  It is a relative of St. Johns Wort.

Another flower that we saw quite a bit, but a new one to me was Sedge.  It is a very grass-like flower, and often called a weed.  I think its unusual because the flower becomes green again at the tips.  Its as if it isn't a flower at all, but a grass that someone spilled some white paint on.

We visited two of our primitive horse camping areas, Fectel and Rock Springs Run.  Both are very remote, but excellent facilities.  The building shown is the horse barn at Fectel, but there is also an identical barn at Rock Springs Run.  These are individual stalls for visitors to bring their own horses to stay overnight and there are plenty of grassy areas around each one for tent camping.  Each camping area also has a restroom available.  Both areas have extensive horse trails throughout. 

On our way out of the Rock Springs property, we spotted several Sandhill Cranes.  I have seen them here more than once and I now look for them every time.  They are such beautiful birds and I am always impressed by their calmness around people.  We gave them their space, but they didn't seem bothered by our presence at all.

Once we were in the Rock Springs Run property, we were back in territory that was familiar to me.  I visit Rock Springs and Katie's Landing sometimes on Mondays.  We decided to stop in at Katie's Landing to see the progress that had been made on the bulkhead construction.  It looked like they were trying to control the water around the existing construction to continue their work.  I'm sure its a difficult task.  The 3+ inches of rain that we had last week brought the water level up again.

On our way back to the main area of the park, we went through a property that I had only driven past before.  We ended up at a stunning oasis, tucked away in the woods, before we popped back out onto paved roads near the main park.  Our last stop was at a small sulfur spring.  It smelled terrible, but it was absolutely beautiful.  The small spring was pumping out its fair share of water and it was mesmerizing to watch the sand churn at the bottom.  It was so nice to watch the blue, blue water.  If it wasn't surrounded by poison ivy, I would have loved to sit and stay all day.  It was a terrific way to end the tour.

Thought of the Day #56
It may seem strange that the park owns so many properties that are seldom used and far away from the main use area of the park.  Park property is not just for recreation though, it serves multiple purposes.  Wekiva River Basin State Park (a title that encompasses all of the land that we manage) is more than 42,000 acres surrounding some of the Wekiva River.  It is a long corridor that provides a pathway for wildlife and it connects to State Forest land to expand the corridor even further.  Many species of animals will roam great distances in search of food, different habitats, or even mates.  This corridor allows them to continue their natural practices with minimal threats from the human world.  As more properties are added to expand this protected area, they are gradually restored to natural conditions and sometimes recreational areas are added so that people can enjoy them as well.

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