Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Nature Retreat Proposed; Arboretum Would Have Trails, Teach about Gardening

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Nature Retreat Proposed; Arboretum Would Have Trails, Teach about Gardening

Article excerpt

Byline: David Bauerlein, Staff writer

A 114-acre tract of land in Arlington could be turned into an arboretum with trails, a visitors' station and places where people can cultivate exotic plants.

Besides teaching people how to pronounce arboretum (ar-bur-EE-tum), the project will offer a retreat into nature in the midst of Arlington's ever-increasing development. The city agreed years ago to establish the 114 acres as a buffer zone for the Arlington East wastewater treatment plant, but currently, fences and "No Trespassing" signs block the public from entering.

City Councilman Lake Ray unveiled the proposed arboretum at a recent town hall meeting. He said it will require a combination of public funding and private support, both in the form of volunteers and donations.

"By seeing this property, you get a sense of not only the incredible natural beauty this area holds, but you get a sense of the history for this part of Florida as you walk past 400-year-old oak trees or pause near the swamp where 4,000 years ago Timucuan Indians might have hunted," Ray said in announcing the proposal.

He said JEA, which owns the wastewater treatment plant and controls the 114-acre buffer zone, supports the plan for the arboretum.

But the success of the venture will rise or fall on the volunteer labor and private donations, said Judy Stevens, an Arlington resident who has been working with Ray on the proposal.

"This piece of land has everything on it that exists in Northeast Florida," Stevens said as she pointed to photos of a lake, uplands hardwoods, a tidal marsh, creek and sand island. "There's so much possibility here."

The land is bordered by Merrill Road and Fort Caroline Road on the north, Monument Road to the south, the Holly Oaks subdivision to the east and the Merrill Hills subdivision on the west, according to Ray's office.

The Jacksonville Transportation Authority had been interested in buying part of the land along Fort Caroline Road for a drainage pond as part of the Wonderwood Connector road project. …

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