Natural Areas

South Florida is typically described by those who live here as one completely built-up urban environment. If you look at the design on the annual pass to Everglades National Park, you’ll get the same impression: it shows a gigantic cartoonish city sprawling around a green space under a transparent dome. Message: nature in a jar.

But there are small oases, pockets of nature here and there in the midst of this great sea of asphalt and poorly planned transportation systems. All you have to do is look for them.

Palm Beach County seems to have the most of them, and the vast majority of them, by number of sites and number of acres per site, are clustered in the northern reaches of the county. But there are a few small natural areas in Boca Raton, where I live. One of my favorites is Yamato Scrub.

Broward County, with the wonderful example of Weston, the city built out into the swamp, appears to have the fewest. But I used to work in an office in Broward County, and lunchtime was about the only time I was able to get out into nature with any regularity, so it was there that I had to find nature, if I was to find it at all. Fern Forest, located right around the corner from where I worked, fills the bill nicely.

And Pondhawk, right next to the Spanish River Library in downtown Boca, is one of the greatest as well.