I have passed by the Windley Key Fossil Reef Geological State Park many times with the thought that one of these days I (or we) would stop in to see what it was all about. That day came yesterday and what a delightful place it is. Not dramatic, mind you, but quite interesting and pleasant. Well, bug spray is needed during much of the year and my lack of it yesterday did shorten the amount of time I walked, but it was long enough to get a sense of the place.
A few facts and figures first. The original 30+ acres was owned by a family that sold the property to the Florida East Coast Railway in 1908. Henry Flagler, owner and President of FEC, needed the quarries in order to carve out tens of thousands of tons of stone for fill during the long process of building the famous Overseas Railway. The beauty of the stone was finally noticed, particularly when it was polished, and it became a popular choice for builders after the railroad was completed. In the common fashion of land, however, a developer began to eye it and local citizens went to work to preserve the area instead for its historic and natural attributes. It joined the list of state parks and more acreage was added over the years. Now, more than 40 types of trees can be seen that provide a haven for tree snails, butterflies, birds, reptiles, and other insects. Multiple, well-kept trails wind through the trees and to the quarries and you can watch geckos and lizards either sunning or leaping from branches to the ground as butterflies flit about. By the way, spiders are not my thing, so when I noticed the webs, I walked past without checking them out. The compact Alison Fahrer Environmental Education Center is nicely laid out with interesting information. This is not the kind of place where you want to bring a child who insists on a “wow” factor, but it’s great for one who likes trees, plants, lizards, and bugs. There is a lot of overhead cover because of the many trees and there is often a breeze. Admission is only $2.50 per person over the age of five and there are guided tours for $2 Fri-Sun, at 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. Yes, you can take your leashed pet, but you are required to stay on the trails and not wander into the woods. The park is open Thursday-Monday, 8-5:00.