Timucuan Park Foundation’s 20th anniversary is celebrated in MOSH exhibitIt seems that a single experience in our area’s parks can be life-changing.
In 1999, then-mayor John Delaney went kayaking at a nearby preserve. The natural beauty left him awe-struck and inspired to ensure continued preservation of the area. He and other civic leaders embarked on an ambitious land preservation program, which led to the formation of Preservation Project Jacksonville to act as a vehicle for their efforts. Sixteen years later, in 2015, the name of this charity partner and friends group working side-by-side with national, state and city park partners, was changed to Timucuan Parks Foundation (TPF). Today, TPF and its parks partners protect more than twenty-three parks and preserves, totaling over 86,000 acres of preserved land – the largest urban park system in the country.
A current exhibit at the Museum of Science and History (MOSH) honors TPF as it celebrates its 20th anniversary. Titled Celebrate & Explore Our Wilderness Parks, the exhibition features an informative, beauty- and sensory-driven exploration of nearby preservation areas through paintings by Kathy Stark, photographs by Will Dickey, and a video montage of drone footage by Tom Schifanella and produced by Shepherd. There are also maps, large-scale cutouts of native animals (painted by Stark), and animal tracks that guide visitors through opportunities to actively engage. The exhibit opened at MOSH on October 29, and will be on view through May, 2020.
“[The park system] is the city’s best kept secret and the exhibit featuring artist Kathy Stark will begin to show residents just what exists here inside the city limits,” says Timucuan Parks Foundation Executive Director Mark Middlebrook. “Many who live here aren’t from here. So the opportunity to show the city’s rich and diverse history and ecology, which dates back thousands of years, is unparalleled.”
National Park Service staff and TPS staff and volunteers will be in the exhibit space on Saturdays throughout the seven-month run of the exhibit. Activities such as animal track stamps, scat identification, and hands-on nature and archeological displays and activities will direct visitors’ engagement. “The hope is that the exhibit encourages them to explore our wilderness parks that are just a few miles from the hustle and bustle of city life,” says Stark.
In addition to celebrating its anniversary through the exhibit, TPF is debuting two new marketing focuses that serve to help local residents visualize geographical areas as a unit. Each park has its own distinct identity, but they are linked by common geographic attributes. “By ‘packaging’ the nearby parks and preserves together, we hope to create an identity for the area and draw more people to visiting it,” says Stark. First, TPF is highlighting the 7 Creeks Trail Partnership, which identifies areas east of the airport and west of Big Talbot/Intracoastal Waterway.
“If you were to tell someone that you were kayaking at Cedar Point, it doesn’t spark an immediate geographic recognition,” says Middlebrook. “So the park partners who are working on trail planning at Cedar Point started calling themselves the 7 Creeks Trail Partnership. It’s an area of the city bounded by water and a specific location. Over time, 7 Creeks will be identified as a specific location within the Northside of Jacksonville.”
The second area is that of Jacksonville’s Barrier Islands Parks, including Fort George Island, Kingsley Plantation, Big and Little Talbot Islands State Parks, and Amelia Island State Park. TPF wants the community to visualize these popular places as a block of islands with a combined identity and purpose – to protect us from hurricanes and to serve as a nursery for marine and bird life for example.
The exhibition also has a thematic focus on the “sense of place” and “sense of well-being” that TPF says our parks provide. Stark’s four new watercolor pieces were specifically painted with these ideas in mind, illustrating the four themes presented in the exhibition. Betz Tiger Point Preserve represents the 7 Creek Trail Partnership, and Little Talbot Island State Park, South End shows the unique beauty of the barrier islands parks. To represent sense of place, Stark says she painted Julington Durbin Creeks Preserve, Sunset Light because it represents how so many of our parks are connected to water. “The land peninsula preserve created at the confluence of Julington and Durbin Creeks is one of the wilderness areas that give our community a natural identity,” says Stark. “It’s the real Jacksonville, one not paved over with roads and strip malls.”
By Meredith T. Matthews