Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Out in Nature and in the City; Jacksonville Arboretum Is a Hidden Gem Located in the Middle of Arlington

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Out in Nature and in the City; Jacksonville Arboretum Is a Hidden Gem Located in the Middle of Arlington

Article excerpt

Byline: Shannen Hurst & Melanie Thomas

What was once a waste-management and water-treatment facility now houses a lush, forested retreat with 3 miles of trails and 13 unique ecosystems - the 120-acre urban woodland located in the middle of Arlington is now the Jacksonville Arboretum.

The arboretum offers local explorers and tourists alike the opportunity to explore and enjoy nature in the heart of the city. The Jacksonville Arboretum houses the largest live oak in North Florida, which has been a staple of the property for more than 125 years.

The Jacksonville Arboretum and Gardens opened in 2004, and is developed and managed by a nonprofit entity that leases the land from the city. With seven trails ranging in difficulty, the opportunities are endless - one can partake in yoga, bring a dog to the pet-friendly trails or enjoy creek-side meditation.

There are also opportunities to attend the many events offered year-round at the arboretum, and from 9 a.m. to noon on the second Saturday of every month, volunteers can come and help aid in the upkeep of the facility.

It has six different locations available for rent for weddings, special events or photo shoots, and guests can immerse themselves in a maze of trees during business hours.

Willis Jones, the president and chair of the arboretum's board of directors, has a unique story as to why he feels so closely connected with the arboretum.

"My path as a volunteer is a little different," Jones said. "I've been in the Arlington area most of my life. I used to take my granddaughter outdoors to different places, and one day we stopped in the arboretum. When I took her for the first time, we enjoyed the trails and the bridges and saw an abundance of wildlife, and she called it 'special park.'

"I knew then it was something special and I wanted to get more involved with it," Jones said.

"I became familiar with the property and soon met people that filled me in on all the arboretum had to offer - they asked me to be on the development committee, and I soon developed bumper stickers that explained how to say, 'Arb-Or-Eat-Um' because a lot of people, to my surprise, did not know what it was or how to pronounce it," Jones said. …

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