Journal Entry 05.28.2017 – Wellington, Florida
For one who prefers not deal with tons of traffic, sometimes a little outing takes a bit of planning. With the Memorial Day Weekend coming up, I deduced that driving to Wellington to find a couple more parks would be perfect. I was right. The morning dawned heavy and humid, the air thick with so much moisture that I had to use the window wipers on the Kia until the vehicle dried out a bit. Even as I pulled up at the Wellington Environmental Preserve, there were still soft, low-lying clouds blocking the sun, but not the humidity. Stepping out into the parking lot felt like I was entering an open-air sauna. Yet step I did and entered on foot the relatively “new” Environmental Preserve.
On the Wellington Village website you’ll find a description of this preserve:
“The Wellington Environmental Preserve at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Everglades Habitat (Section 24) is a 365-acre rainwater storage area with nature trails and learning centers. It was built through a partnership between South Florida Water Management District and Wellington. In compliance with the 1994 Everglades Forever Act, rainwater from Wellington must be cleansed of phosphorus before it enters the Florida Everglades. The southern half of Wellington (Basin B) has 9,230 acres of storm water runoff (rainwater) that is now routed west to Section 24. It leaves Section 24 via the C-1 canal heading north to the C-51 canal that runs along SR80 before finally entering the Everglades.
In order to accomplish this, seven storm water Pump Stations were built or renovated along with the widening of nearby canals. Approximately one inch of rainwater from Basin B was also re-routed to reach Section 24. It is then naturally cleansed as it flows through over two miles of combined wetland/marsh area, littoral shelves and deep water sediment traps.
Interior uplands and native landscaping provide an exhibition of natural Florida from the paved pedestrian path and boardwalk to seven designated Learning Areas. There is a large decorative Trellis and six story Observation Tower located at two of these Learning Areas.
The Wellington Environmental Preserve also includes a 3.6 mile perimeter Equestrian Trail that is an extension of the approximately 65-mile Wellington bridle trail system. The Preserve was named the 2010 “Project of the Year” by the Palm Beach County Chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers.”
That said, the Preserve is a great open-air place to see native plants and animals of Florida exhibited in such a way that there is a peaceful co-existence. There are paved walking trails, numerous educational kiosks and a nice boardwalk. Segways can be rented for those who do not want to walk the pathways. You can find them at Lot P1, on the northeastern edge of the preserve.
As I walked slowly through the area, taking in the young vegetation, I heard the musical tones of a proud Northern Mockingbird singing his song in a tree. The bird sounds in general were uninhibited. And there were some surprise denizens including the tiny marsh rabbits and a large fat hispid cotton rats, a creature I had never encountered before:
In Florida, hispid cotton rats are common in sabal palm (Sabal palmetto)-coconut palm (Cocos nucifera) savanna. In the Southeast, hispid cotton rats prefer grassy understories of fire-maintained loblolly pine-shortleaf pine (Pinus taeda-P. echinata) and longleaf pine-slash pine (P. palustris-P. elliottii) stands.
I’m not one who is squeamish or afraid of little fuzzy creatures, so I quietly observed the little fat creature and walked on.
The marshes were still a bit thin on wading birds, but I saw several herons, a Limpkin, several purple gallinude which I have found to be a beautiful if noisy marsh dweller. Other birds, especially the Common Grackle and red-winged blackbirds were busy and noisy, fluttering about through the grasses, reeds and shrubs.
Upon completing my walk, I decided to continue on through Wellington proper to see if I could locate Peaceful Waters Preserve , which is tucked into a quiet corner of the busy Village Park, a huge athletic complex with gym and fields, located off Pierson Road. I found the Park after passing numerous gated estates strung along the two-lane road. For those who are not familiar with this part of Florida, it is the home of gated communities… and I’m talking about South Florida in general. The “village” of Wellington is a newer “family-oriented” community that is oriented towards the equestrian life-style. It is not every city that has 65+ miles of equestrian trails and “horse crossings” along the various main streets. As a consequence, as you drive through the edges of the village, you will encounter large equestrian estates. I’ve never seen so many elaborate horse stables outside of Kentucky or perhaps old British and European landed estates. Needless to say, the Wellington way of life appeals to people who are outdoor oriented, with plenty of biking trails, dog parks and other park facilities. And frankly, I find the division between have’s and have not’s quite blinding here in South Florida. Wellington is an example of a high-end planned community that can be found in plenitude in South Florida, although not many cities have horse-related activities.
When I finally found the parking area for the Peaceful Waters Preserve, I got out into the still humid air and walked slowly towards and through the welcoming gate. I found there a wetland preserve such like Wakodahatchee and Green Cay, preserves found in Boynton Beach. There were plenty of birds, rabbits and lots of lizards. I also found some more attractive marsh flowers and plants.
It may seem odd that I prefer the quiet marshes to the sunny beaches of Florida but there it is. I’ve long been a hiker and prefer quiet places. I’m also too restless to lay in the sun and burn my body while lying upon towel on the glistening sand. I have gone to the beach a couple of times, but it is a 30 minute drive through heavy traffic, so I usually turn to the marshes for my time in Nature. Parking at the beaches is also an issue here. There is paid public parking and spaces are limited. If visiting, it is better to situate yourself within walking distance of the beach so you don’t have to bother with the parking issue or you can avail yourself of the bus lines or shuttles that are available.
I haven’t identified these flowers yet, except the Yellow Flags, a native iris common throughout North America.
Spring advances here in South Florida and with it the heat and humidity. I’m glad I have access to a swimming pool and air-conditioning. And take one day at a time.
All Rights Reserved, Elizabeth Ayres Escher, http://www.bluedragonjournal.com