By Michael Salerno
For Hometown News
PONCE INLET -- The expansion of a park that features an Indian shell mound and native plants is expected to take shape by the end of the spring.
Construction will begin within the next month on new features for the Timucuan Oaks Garden, including an elevated boardwalk with a wildlife viewing gazebo and a kayak/canoe launch with access to the Halifax River through Daggett Creek.
Margi Richard, the town's development review clerk, said the boardwalk would improve upon the existing park because there's not much there as it stands.
"Right now there's nothing other than the trails in the park," Ms. Richard said.
Town Manager Jeaneen Clauss said the improvements to Timucuan Oaks would mirror the western portion of the nearby Ponce Preserve, as both parks involve a "walk through nature" concept.
"This allows access over the wetlands for an appreciation of the natural surroundings, which are otherwise impossible for most to get to," Ms. Clauss said.
Besides the addition of the boardwalk, the entrance of Timucuan Oaks will receive a facelift, with a paved walkway leading inside the park and native plant landscaping, Ms. Richard said.
"Right now (the entrance) is just a sandy path in," she said.
Timucuan Oaks Garden is an eight-acre park that the town acquired in 2004 with assistance from the Trust for Public Land, funded with a $1.8 million state grant from the Florida Communities Trust. Ms. Clauss said the conditions of the grant stipulated the town must make improvements to the property.
The park features both wetlands and uplands, including an ancient Indian midden, salt marsh, mangrove swamp and maritime hammock. Native plants, such as palmettos, leather ferns, cedars, oaks and mangroves, can be found at Timucuan Oaks.
Since the town bought the park, a small parking area, a picnic table and educational signage were added in September 2008.
Taking the first step to breaking ground on the boardwalk, town leaders recently awarded a contract to Core Construction for the Timucuan Oaks improvements. Although the town budgeted the project cost at $371,000, Core Construction's bid was $295,000.
Ms. Richard said Core Construction would begin work this month, adding she hopes the project will be completed by May.
Other improvements to the park that will be added later on include a playground and educational signage along the nature trails.
Ms. Richard said she's looking forward to the boardwalk being added to Timucuan Oaks Garden, with the accompanying gazebo and kayak launch encouraging low-impact recreation activities and attracting more people to the park's large oak trees and Indian shell mound.
"This property is so beautiful and pristine," she said.