Saturday, November 27, 2010

Washington Oaks Gardens State Park

This park, on Anastasia Island, was our last stop of the day when we visited that island. Although formal gardens are the centerpiece of the park, it does have 425 acres of Florida's original coastal scenery. The land is part of Bella Vista Plantation, once owned by General Joseph Hernandez, a Floridian of Minorcan descent. You may remember that in one of my past postings I spoke of the Minorcans, or Greek immigrants who settled in St.Augustine. A surveyor named George Washington, distant relative of  our first president, married Hernandez's daughter in 1845. History can sure be fascinating. The plantation ended up as a winter resort for Mr. Young and his wife in 1937. He help found the RCA corporation.
Speaking of gardens, we also visited Ravine Gardens State Park in Palatka, Florida on Thanksgiving day. In that park gardens have been landscaped with tropical and subtropical plantings in a setting of ravines and springs. March or April  is probably the best time to see this garden as azaleas thickly cover the area then.
In 1937 the gardens were declared "the Nation's outstanding CWA project". CWA was the Federal Civil Works Administration formed during the depression to spur economic recovery. Ironically, both the gardens and the town of Palaka could use the same help today, as they are now looking rather down in the mouth with physical structures crumbling, streets and sidewalks cracking. In the park there is an obelisk dedicated to Franklin D. Roosevelt, president at the time when this garden was built. Leading up to the monument are all the flags of the states, placed in order according to their time of statehood. Our weather has been great for the past few days, average of 80 degrees.

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