Twice-Told Tale

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Twice-Told Tale

Twice-Told Tale

Native Wildlife Also Attracts Locals

Delaney Bolstein
(Above) In Autumn, Wekiwa Spring’s wildflowers flourish. The dry ground found on the latter end of the White Trail loop provides the perfect soil for composites, or flowers in the daisy family. These yellow buds also support the migrating butterfly and moth populations, especially Polyphemus moths. The purple flowers, dense gayfeather, however, are native to the summer-time and die in the fall and winter months. This cycling of plants keeps Wekiwa Spring’s soil fertile and provides necter for pollinators. Two years ago Lake County Parks and Trails and the Florida Wildflower Foundation teamed together to develop pollinator habitat Wekiwa-Ocala Greenway. By planting small trees, shrubs, wildflowers, and, most importantly, milkweed, they hope to raise the bee population which has seen a dramatic decline in the past years due to the increase use of pesticides in nature.

Past the magic of Disney, the thrill of Universal, and the chaos of I-Drive, is the often overlooked Wekiwa Springs State Park. The park was originally used for cypress logging, but due to the protection of The National Wild and Scenic Rivers System Program by President Lyndon B. Johnson, the springs became protected by the federal government. Teeming with ​alligators, turtles, river otters, raccoons, herons, and multiple species of fish, Wekiwa Springs provides a safe haven for both Central Florida wildlife and residents, housing over 13 miles of hiking trails. During the summer, thousands of visitors flock to crystal clear, 72 degree year round waters to beat the heat by swimming, snorkeling, or kayaking the Wekiwa River. During the colder months, visitors explore the tree-canopy lined trails to embrace the change in weather. Wekiwa Springs is also the oldest tourist attraction in Orlando, founded in the 1860 as an attempt to draw Northerns to Florida. Wekiwa Springs State Park offers an oasis for nature lovers, a reprieve from the sweltering sun, and a sanctuary for wildlife. 

(Above) When weather parameters are suitable, the fire department conducts prescribed fires in Wekiwa Springs. These fires reduce the amount of dead undergrowth, kills invasive species and insects, and encourage new growth to the forest. This is much needed after rising temperatures which have been reducing the amount of plants. Before a fire is started, the exact area it will cover, how the fire will be set, and how the intense amount of smoke it creates will be handled, is planned by the Florida Forest Service. Two years after carrying out one, Wekiwa Springs Forest is still recovering. It takes three years for trees to begin growing back, as undergrowth such as moss and shrubs begin much earlier. However, wildflowers such as the pink tall Elephantsfoot thrive in the compromised soil. This makes the White Trail loop a rather dystopian trail reminicent of a post-apocalyptic world especially when fog covers the undergrowth. Luckily, no burnt aroma lingers around the trees. (Delaney Bolstein)
(Above) To limit the amount of lost people, Wekiwa Springs marks each path with a color or “blaze” found at the trailhead. Along the way trees with the color confirm that hikers are in the right direction. It is important to note that each tree is marked on both its front and back, and, this includes toppled down ones due to the hurricanes. Wekiwa Springs is excently marked relatively, as there are obvious signs throughout each trail. Also, it is encouraged that hikers bring charged phones and bear spray, as accidents do occur. (Delaney Bolstein)
(Left) After category four Hurricane Ian hit Florida late September, Wekiwa Springs is still recovering. The park is especially vulnerable to flooding due to both its spring system and the 16 mile Wekiwa River running through it which experienced record high flooding with Ian, a foot above the previous all time high. However, the hurricane allowed for some rare wildlife to reach Wekiwa Springs. The Wekiwa River is a part of the St. John’s River System which stretches all the way up to Jacksonville, and manatees, who previously did not have as much access to the park due to lower water levels, began to swim to the headspring. While the river is narrow, it houses submerged, emergent, and floating vegetation. This is particularly important because of the decreasing amount of food sources mantees have been facing due to polluted waters. Still, for residents in the neighborhoods surrounding Wekiwa Springs the hurricane forced many out of their homes admist flooded roads and debris. Hikers are also advised to look where they step. The White Trail loop, though normally on sandy soil, features muddy segments and small streams without proper footing platforms. The makeshift bridges graciously placed by volunteers require some degree of athletic capability and coordination. A cute byproduct of the storm, however, is that an undercurrent of small frogs sweep the trail. (Delaney Bolstein)
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About the Contributor
Delaney Bolstein
Delaney Bolstein, Editor-in-Chief
Delaney Bolstein is the Editor-in-Chief of Lake Highland Preparatory School's Upper School newspaper Twice-Told Tale. She is a Senior at Lake Highland and has been at the school since Pre-K. Delaney has also been a member of the cross-country and track team since Sophomore year. Additionally, Delaney volunteers at the Winter Park Public Library. In her free time, Delaney can be found watching Zach Stone is Gonna Be Famous and translating French novels.

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