Bok Gardens Nature Trail Opens Onto Pine Land Preserve

At 9:00 am on March 1, 2013, David Price, President of Bok Tower Gardens (also President of Green Horizon Land Trust), presided over the ribbon cutting that opened a 1.5 mile trail that winds through open lands surrounding Bok Tower Gardens. The event took place just inside the Gardens’ main gate at one of two new picnic shelters constructed as part of the trail project.

Remarks from the Opening Ceremony

David Price, President Bok Tower Garden, President, Green Horizon Lands Trust

These lands are ancient sand dunes. Ocean waves have come and gone from here with the rise and fall of the seas. These lands were oak scrub land they were islands surrounded by water. Then 10,000 years ago frequent fires created a grass land savannah with pine trees. These were hunting grounds of early man. Modern times brought the harvest of turpentine then the harvest of timber; then the stumps were dug out, often blasted with dynamite, and the lightwood used to make wood rosin. The land was purchased and cultivated to grow citrus by Mountain Lake Corporation for almost 100 years to produce sweet oranges for the table and for juice.

Ninety years ago Edward Bok hired Fredrick Law Olmsted to build the Gardens. These citrus lands mixed with lands of remaining pine were part of the landscape Olmsted utilized for the Gardens’ vista and entry drive experience. These open lands were not owned by the Gardens Foundation but were only “borrowed” landscape.

A record cold freeze of 17 degrees on Christmas Eve of 1989 damaged and killed many of the citrus in this area. Some of the groves were replanted some were pushed up and the land left fallow for a decade and a half. Nature started to return to the fallow land. Raptors, rodents, snakes, tortoises, rabbits, fox, and birds of the field, pioneered this land. Patches of native pinelands provided the source of life to return.

Then a new crop was envisioned for this land that was one of houses, of neighborhoods with streets, lights, irrigated yards, cars and dogs. This would have destroyed the borrowed landscape of the gardens. Eight years ago Bok Tower Garden partnered with the Green Horizon Land Trust to find a way to preserve this open land.

In 2005, the Florida Community Trust awarded a $2.5 million grant to the Green Horizon Land Trust to preserve the land as "vistas critically important to the historic design of the Gardens."

"With that preservation we had responsibilities," said Price. "Green Horizon Land Trust and Bok Tower Garden formed a partnership in perpetuity to protect this land, to restore the pinelands, to manage the land for wildlife and the use by the public." As part of this partnership, Bok Tower Gardens committed to developing hiking trails, educational and interpretive signage, picnic shelters, recreational opportunities, and restoration of former agricultural lands to pine forest.

"To our partners and the public I want to thank for your trust in this project, thank you for your commitment to the environment and the preservation for these lands to the future generations of citizens- both human and animals. "
— David Price

Price also made a point to thank the partners that have worked on the management and restoration of these properties: Green Horizon Land Trust, Florida Community Trust, Polk County Board of County Commissioners, Patton Kline Family Foundation, Florida Wildflower Foundation, Vaughn Jordan Foundation, Mosaic, CSX, US Fish and Wildlife, Florida Departments of Forestry and Environmental Protection, the Ridge Ranger volunteers, and Bok Tower Gardens Volunteers.

For example, as part of a Florida Wildflower Foundation/Viva Florida 500 project in August 2012, a team of 71 volunteers spent six days and 370 hours planting more than 13,000 wildflowers and native grasses on a one-acre area surrounding the Preserve’s new picnic shelter and parking area, site of the March 1 event.

Now two picnic shelters are on the preserve, one at the trail head near the entrance to the Gardens and the other at Lake Wales High School overlooking the Preserve and Bok Tower.

The public can access the trail as part of the admission price to Bok Tower Gardens and part of the ticket price will go to maintenance and restoration of the Preserve. Want to be a part of this effort? Write Green or call 863-678-1237.

In-Depth Article Published Saturday, March 2, 2013 in the NewsChief
News Release Posted Feb 21, Bok Tower Garden News