“Each moment of the year has its own beauty . . . a picture which was never before and shall never be seen again.”
– Ralph Waldo Emerson
Join us for our second annual Wekiwa Wilderness Retreat – a unique opportunity to learn more about the Wekiva basin, its wildlife and the environment and immerse yourself in it for three days of learning and fun.
The retreat is being held at the Youth Camp in Wekiwa Springs State Park among some of the most pristine Sandhill habitats to be found anywhere in the Southeastern U.S.
Participants have the choice to camp out in their own tents, stay in cabins with bunk beds or leader cabins that have their own facilities. All meals are provided from the meet and greet dinner on Friday night to the farewell lunch on Sunday.
A varied and full program has been arranged in conjunction with our partners REI, with several of the activities repeated during the retreat so that everyone should be able to participate in all of them. However, you don’t have to participate in them all if you don’t want to and you can just enjoy the trails, the spring, the Wekiva River and all the spectacular sceneries.
Activities include ‘greet the day’ yoga, guided birding and wildflower hikes, guided canoe trips, night hikes, basic survival techniques, edible Florida, presentations about Florida’s critters, campfire singalongs and much more. There will also be some very special not to be missed surprise events, especially after dinner on Friday night. The full program will be sent to you after registration.
Cost for the retreat is $175 if you bring your own tent – this includes all meals and all programs and presentations. If you want to stay in one of the bunk cabins the cost is $200. This includes all meals and presentations and if you come as a group you can have a cabin to yourself. The cost for the leader cabins is $225 which includes all meals and presentations. Leader cabins have facilities including toilets and showers, some are open-plan while others have separate bedroom areas.
For more information about the retreat, please contact Don Philpott at [email protected] or call 321-277-8442. To register, please hit the link below. Numbers are limited so please register early.
The Wekiva Wilderness Trust in conjunction with REI is holding its next basic survival boot camp on Saturday, January 18, 2020, from 9am to 3pm at Rock Springs Run State Reserve in Sorrento off State Road 46.
The course has been designed for family group participation so everyone knows what to do if a hurricane, tornado or other natural disaster destroys their home or if you get stranded in the wilderness. Of course, all the techniques are good skills to use in the great outdoors. The boot camp will cover survival techniques, field first aid, foraging for food and water, building a shelter, rope making from natural materials and lighting a fire (including the bow and drill technique).
Apart from water, bug spray, sun screen and lunch, each participant is asked to bring a knife, about 20 feet of strong string, parachute cord or similar and two large black garbage bags.
The cost for the workshop is $10 a person payable on the day (which counts as a donation to the Wekiva Wilderness Trust). If you have any questions or want to register for the class, please email [email protected].
Apologies but the 2pm Edible Florida program this Sunday has been cancelled.
Join us at the 33rd Annual Real Florida 5K and 10K Run & Fun Walk at Wekiwa Springs State Park on Saturday, Feb. 29, 2020. It is the only race run entirely off road within a state park and there are prizes for the fastest overall times, medals for all finishers and lots of other surprises. To download a registration form click
or to register on line go here
We hope to have the final design completed within the next month and after review by the Department of Environmental Protection, the project will then go out to bidding for the first phase of construction – grading the site, installing retaining walls and laying the concrete paths.
The design stage has taken more than two years to complete as scores of meetings and focus groups have been held in order to get the greatest diversity of views possible about what the garden must offer and what people expect to get out of it. We have been privileged to work with many of the leading national and international experts in this area who have generously contributed their services.
We are also working on a major media event in late summer with an official ground-breaking. We are talking to all the local mayors as well as local, state and national legislators both to get their support for the garden and to attend the event so that it attracts massive media attention and publicity.
In every sense, the garden – a park within a park – is unique. There is nothing like it anywhere else in the U.S. and as far as we know, anywhere else in the world. While there are healing gardens in hospitals and therapeutic gardens in many facilities, no one has ever attempted to pull all the various gardens into a single, comprehensive unit. That is what the Serenity Garden at Wekiwa Springs achieves.
Teams of Master Gardeners from Orange and Seminole Counties are working on comprehensive plant lists as only native plants will be grown. We are also working with the Florida Native Plant Society and the Florida Association of Native Plant Nurseries.
An Ambassador’s Council is being formed of prominent people who have expressed their willingness to promote the garden and seek out patron donors. As the size of the garden has increased to more than 1.2 acres, so has the cost and significant funding is still needed to complete the project. We are optimistic, however, that the money can be raised because as word spreads about the project, more and more people want to get involved in a project that is both unique and one that will serve a very special yet underserved community.
You can find out more information about the Serenity Garden on the Serenity Garden page!
You can donate on our GoFundMe page here
On May 7th and 8th the fourth grade students from Wekiva Elementary School had an opportunity to become ambassadors for bears. The students were welcomed to bear camp by ranger Jane Cummings, divided into five groups and sent off to begin their day of discovery. The camp was set up to host five learning stations for the students. At the Habitat Hunt, students were led on a guided walk to look for clues of other animals and learn about the plants that make up an ideal bear habitat. It’s a Bear’s Life, focused on the life cycle of bears through a board game, and many artifacts that demonstrated the size and difficulties bears face during the stages of their life from cub to adult. Good Grub was centered on a healthy diet for bears. Students learned about the dietary needs of bears, what they really eat, and had an opportunity to pull apart rotten logs and scavenge for berries, plants and insects that make up a bear’s diet. Students also visited the Urban Interface area where they learned about the challenges of living close to bears, what they can do every day to protect our bears, and had an opportunity to design an ideal urban interface through the use of sand tables and mini props. To ensure that these students had an opportunity to create a meaningful memory to leave behind, the final station was to paint a rock for our Wekiva Rocks rock garden. At the end of the day, they hiked to the garden to place their rocks. Many CSO volunteers helped make this day a success.
This was an incredible program that we will continue to provide for our local schools!
After months of detailed fine tuning, the final concept design for the Serenity Garden at Wekiwa Springs State has now been completed. Even though construction has not yet started, the garden, believed to be the first of its kind in the nation, has already attracted the attention of the medical and therapeutic community.
Faculty and graduate students from Adventist University of Health Science’s Occupational Therapy Department recently spent two days at the site as groundwork for the first evidence-based research study to be performed at the garden.
The ongoing study will explore quality of life impacts of the Serenity Garden’s design and programs for four specified groups: seniors, people who have lost their sight, Wounded Warrior Veterans, and children and adults with autism.
National and regional expertise has been engaged in designing the garden according to the evidence-based principles established by the American Therapeutic Horticultural Association. The garden, the first of its kind in any state or national park, represents the next innovative wave in the movement to expand equitable access to nature for people of all ages and diverse abilities.
It will offer a peaceful, welcoming retreat in which people of all ages and abilities can feel comfortable while enjoying unique experiences surrounded by nature. The garden, which has doubled in size, will transform one-acre of disturbed land behind the existing nature education center. Lushly landscaped with a regional palette of native plants, the garden will feature interactive and sensory elements, and enhanced opportunities for relaxation, exercise, social gathering, education, and therapeutic programming.
The use of specialty gardens for the enrichment of human health and wellness dates all the way back to the Middle Ages. In the 21st century, here in the United States, research at major hospitals and universities began to produce a body of modern evidence, and it is now understood that time spent in green spaces can benefit human health in ways both culturally significant and scientifically measurable.
Through its participation in this research, the American Therapeutic Horticultural Association eventually solidified a set of evidence-based principles which became the standards for the development of gardens used for therapeutic purposes.
Gardens now serve in therapeutic capacities at many hospitals, rehabilitation centers, psychiatric facilities, nursing homes and vocational rehabilitation programs all across the country but none are as comprehensive as the Serenity Garden at Wekiwa.
The landscape architecture has been specifically designed to the highest possible standards and purposes of accessibility, universal design, education, safety, and enjoyment by visitors of all ages and abilities. The design represent a seamless melding of highly accessible features that support sensory, physical, and emotional restoration and revitalization for visitors with diverse needs and abilities, and facilitates the highest possible level of enhanced opportunity and engagement for recreational activity, exercise, educational, and therapeutic programming for visitors of all ages and abilities.
Detailed site plans are now being prepared to allow work on the hardscape to begin in the next few weeks.
You can find out more information about the Serenity Garden on the Serenity Garden page!
You can donate on our GoFundMe page here.
Imagine our Florida is a new website from a new 501c3 whose mission is to preserve and protect Florida’s natural resources, wildlife and land. Go to www.imagineourflorida.org to check it out.
The group was created as a result of last year’s bear hunt which brought together thousands of bear lovers, conservationists and environmentalists from around the state and beyond. The mission has now widened to include protecting all Florida’s natural resources and especially bears, manatees and panthers.
Planning your holiday shopping yet?
If so, shop at Amazon Smile and designate Wekiva Wilderness Trust as your chosen charity. A percentage of everything you buy goes to the WWT and it doesn’t cost you a penny. Click
What a great day today and what a fantastic way to celebrate National Public Lands Day at Wekiwa Springs State Park. Almost 50 volunteers turned out to clear the ground for Wekiwa’s new Serenity Garden and move the project one step closer to becoming a reality. The half-acre site, between the nature center and the parking lot, is now almost clear of vegetation and a detailed survey of the ground can now take place before the garden design is finalized. If you are interested in helping with the project by volunteering or donating please contact us at [email protected]
To learn more about the project click here
The American Alligator inhabits the southeastern United States. Their life spans can exceed 60 yrs. Alligators occur on the Atlantic Coast of North America from Florida through coastal North Carolina, and along the Gulf Coast into Texas. They eat fish, turtles, wading birds, snakes, frogs, small mammals and even smaller alligators.
The gray fox is one of Florida’s most commonly seen carnivores. They feed on small animals, acorns, fruit and insects, but they will also scavenge road-killed animals. They are active at night and usually hunt alone. Gray Foxes are abundant in hardwood forests, pine-oak woodlands and brushy fields.
Sherman’s Fox Squirrel occurs in peninsular Florida to the north end of Lake Okeechobee, and is more than twice the size of the common gray squirrel. It is probably destined for eventual “endangered” status. Fox squirrels are selective in their habitat needs. They depend mostly on pine seeds for food in the summer and on acorns during the remainder of the year.
Raccoons can be found just about everywhere, because they will eat just about anything. They are found in forests, marshes, prairies, and even in cities. They are adaptable and use their dexterous front paws and long fingers to find and feast on a wide variety of fare. Their life span in the wild is 2 to 3 years.
Gopher tortoises live in dry, upland habitats that have well-drained soils for them to dig their burrows. Their common habitat includes: pine flatwoods, xeric oak, sand pine, scrub oak, agricultural lands, and coastal dune and scrub. Their diet consists of grasses and legumes. The Gopher Tortoise is listed as a threatened species.
A common forest-dwelling hawk of the East and California, the Red-shouldered Hawk favors woodlands near water, but may also nest in suburban areas. It is perhaps the most vocal American hawk. It preys on snakes and frogs. It also eats insects and small mammals. Its call is a loud two syllable scream.
Corn snakes are slender with a length of 24 to 72 inches. They feed on mice, rats, birds, and bats. They are constrictors. They are found in the eastern United States from southern New Jersey south through Florida, west to Louisiana and parts of Kentucky. They help to control rodent populations that may otherwise spread disease