Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Ravine Gardens

Today was a little out of the ordinary.  It started early and ended late, but it was a good day.  I met my fellow Assistant Park Manager and our Park Manager at 7am.  We drove about two hours away to Palatka, FL for a Volunteer Management Training.  It was held at a beautiful park that I had not been to before, Ravine Gardens State Park.  The training was in a very nice conference room in a spectacular building.  It was not the usual state park meeting hall.  At lunchtime, we were able to break to a beautiful courtyard and enjoy our lunches under a large gazebo.  I walked around the courtyard a little bit after I ate and enjoyed the views and the flowers.  There was a fountain in the center of the courtyard.  I was able to hear the water in the fountain from where we ate.

Around the fountain were thoughtfully placed flowers of a few varieties.  The most impressive in my opinion were the Blueberries.  They were just starting to ripen, but they were the biggest Blueberries that I have seen!

With the Blueberries were some large Pink Hydrangeas.  They were also just beginning to bloom, but there were quite a few full blooms available for our enjoyment.

It seems like this park would be a lot of fun to explore on a day when I have more time.  There were quite a few paths and trails that disappeared into the giant ravine.

I caught one more quick flower photo before heading back to resume training after lunch.  I don't know what this one is, but it was very close to a Gardenia.  I was able to smell it before I saw it, and by then, it was time to go.

The training was beneficial.  I went to a similar training a few years ago, but as my responsibilities have changed, it was nice to have a refresher.  I was able to look at everything from another angle.  I think that it reminded me of several things that I can do to assist our volunteer program, but some items definitely apply to managing anyone.  It was also nice to see some of the friendly faces that I know from throughout the Park Service.  These training have become so infrequent, I don't get to see my coworkers from other parks nearly as often as I did a few years ago.  It was nice to catch up and also meet some new people.
On the way out after the training, we drove the loop around the top of the ravine.  It was a cool experience, it was almost like driving through the mountains, on a much smaller scale.  The ravine was formed by water flowing to the St. Johns River.  In the 1930's, Ravine Gardens was established as an attraction and developed during Roosevelt's New Deal era by the Civil Works Administration.  The gardens that were planted, as well as the ravine itsself have been drawing visitors since then.  The park has a very interesting modern history.  I will let you take a look at their webpage to read more about what drew attention to the park during the Chicago World's Fair and how the Miss Azalea Pageant began. 

Thought of the Day #22
It seems a little strange to have so many exotic plants and so much manicured landscaping around a State Park, but not all of Florida's State Parks are managed to preserve Pre-European impact landscapes.  Some of the parks preserve our cultural heritage as well.  In 1999, this park was recognized as a National Landmark for Outstanding Landscape Architecture.  Ravine Gardens is one of several parks that preserve some of the impact that we have made on our landscape in the past.  I had a hard time photographing some of the flowers around the park because of my experience with exotic removal at other parks.  It was hard to embrace things like Impatients and Coleus growing in planters around the building and the courtyard.  While they were flowers that I enjoyed planting in our household gardens when I was younger, they don't align with state park foliage in my head.

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