Jax Native Park Turns 100!

native garden in jacksonville100 years ago, in 1923, the incredibly forward-thinking members of the Avondale Garden Circle began planting native species in a park that the City of Jacksonville set aside in the 1921 plat of the Avondale neighborhood.  Their goal was to increase public awareness and the wisdom of landscaping with plants indigenous to northeast Florida.  

Formally dedicated as Native Park in 1932 this half-acre park is now bordered on all sides by stately homes whose residents love having a small piece of nature just outside their front doors. In the center of Native Park is a brass plaque embedded in stone commemorating the two important dates. The plaque gives testament to the role that the founders intended for the park, namely “…the study of Florida Plant Life.” 

native park sign in jaxThe park was maintained by the garden circle for years but then underwent many years of decline until the 1980’s when Dr. Robert Ragland, a member of the Florida Native Plant Society, began caring for the park. He devoted over twenty post-retirement years to propagating, planting and maintaining native species. As Dr. Ragland aged and Mother Nature took its course, the park became a tangle of exotic invasives and overly vigorous natives. It was regularly mowed and so-called “maintained” by landscape crews with little regard for established plantings.  

 The Ixia Chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society official adopted Native Park in 2010 as part of the city’s “Friends of the Park” program with the intent of carrying out the original purpose of the park and to advance the mission of FNPS as an on-going project for the chapter. Members and volunteers spent many Saturday mornings weeding, pruning, removing invasives, adding new plants and returning the park to a neat and tidy look with lots of new native plants. 

When Ixia starting caring for the park in 2010, only 37 native species were growing there. Today over 160 diverse native plant species grow in Native Park; 95% of the species are vouchered for northeast Florida. Many of the plants are identified with metallic labels providing the botanical and common names. A list of all the current plant species is posted in a kiosk along with a map that identifies their locations by zones. 

Native Park has won numerous awards including Outstanding Park by the Riverside-Avondale Preservation Society and the St. Johns Riverkeeper, Certificate of Recognition by the City of Jacksonville Neighborhoods Department, the FNPS Landscaping Design Award of Excellence for a Publicly-Owned Property in 2016 and the 2022 Riverside-Avondale Preservation Society Landscape Award. 

Today, Native Park is maintained by Ixia Chapter volunteers and Duval County Extension Master Gardener Volunteers. Volunteers participate in workdays to perform routine maintenance, lead tours for garden clubs and other organizations, conduct an annual native plant sale, host educational events for various groups and look for additional ways the park can help educate the public about using native plants in an urban environment. 

Native Park is located at 3306 Park Street, Jacksonville, FL 32205. You are welcome to visit the park, have lunch at the new picnic table built for the park by Eagle Scout Brennan Doherty and learn about native plants by touring the grounds and reading the material on the kiosk. 

 If you would like more information about Native Park, how to get involved or schedule a tour, contact the Ixia Chapter at ixiachapter@gmail.com. You can also find information on their website – https://ixia.fnpschapters.org/  – especially details on the Centennial Celebration.

This post was written by Walter Bryant, MGV.


Posted: July 10, 2023

Category: Community Volunteers, Conservation, Florida-Friendly Landscaping, Recreation
Tags: Florida Native Plant Society, Ixia Chapter, Jax Native Park, Native Northeast Florida Plants, Native Park

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