About Me

My photo
I'm a woman entering "the third chapter" and fascinated by the journey.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Erna Nixon Park

We were lucky enough to spend the Christmas holiday in Brevard County, Florida, visiting relatives, and were able to fit in a little wandering-around time, as the Space Coast is known for its concentration of interesting, sometimes endangered species. With only a little free time on Christmas day itself, we opted to begin at a small city park named for Erna Nixon, a Melbourne Village naturalist who was instrumental in convincing the county to preserve this 53-acre space, now surrounded by housing developments and shopping centers. For those unfamiliar with the Village, it was founded as an intentional community in 1946 for people who wanted to live an agrarian life close to a larger town. Now surrounded by the cities of Melbourne, West Melbourne, and Palm Bay, Melbourne Village is an incorporated town of 700 or so, with lots of green space preserved. Ms. Nixon, by the way, was in her seventies when she began nagging the county about the property, so it's never too late to be a gadfly.

The park is one of the most accessible I've seen, with a 3/4-mile boardwalk winding through hammock and swamp forest. Other trails are packed sand, easy on aging knees. Even though you're in the middle of the city, the entrance to the park gives the impression of wandering into a primeval forest (at least, a Florida forest of pine and palmetto).
Erna Nixon Park is not all pine. Deeper into the woods is the classic, magical combination of live oak and Spanish moss.
Patches of woodland include huge swaths of what we in the North know as Boston fern, a houseplant that I always manage to kill. (And since this fern is native to Florida, how did Boston get to claim it?) 
The park isn't just landscapes that remind me of my vanished youth and Tarzan fantasies. (Doesn't every little girl want to wander off and live with the apes?) The boardwalk winds past amazing details, like this red-blanket lichen, Chidecton sanguieneum
and this air plant, species unknown.
I had forgotten how high the humidity is once you're more than a mile or two away from the ocean, where the salt air does a wonderful job of drying out Ohio-Valley-clogged sinuses. The barks of ordinary trees become densely-populated ecosystems. This dahoon holly is a typical example.
While we could hear birds in the park, the woods were so dense that we saw very few. I suspect that Erna Nixon's legacy will be on our list of places to revisit.

No comments: