Culture Up Close
Nature, culture and history combine along the William Bartram Scenic & Historic Highway as in few other places. One of the chief aims in creating the Scenic Highway has always been to preserve for future generations the cultural attributes indigenous to this unique region. And through partnerships with the community and lots of hard work, that’s exactly what’s happened. Come enjoy the rewards.
A wonderful remnant farm complex can be found at the County-owned Alpine Groves Park, a property that still contains original 19th century orange grove plantation structures. This historic farm complex will be restored to include a living history museum with agricultural exhibits. After completion of this restoration, the park will provide a venue for environmental and cultural heritage education.
These historic uses have established an area of rural ambiance in close proximity to the concrete and steel monuments of the City of Jacksonville. Although the rural character of the area cannot economically function upon strictly an agrarian economy, the vision of the scenic corridor is to preserve the character of these cultural landscapes and archaeological resources. The County, recognizing the importance of this character, has developed protections to help preserve this landscape for future generations.
The vision of the Corridor Group parallels the vision of the Northwest Sector Plan. This vision aims to “maintain the rural character that people treasure” and “is not based on a rural or agricultural economy, as much as it is based on the visual experience of traveling…”through the corridor “experiencing views of the St. Johns River, wetland areas, forests, and open areas.” Thus, both the Corridor Group and the Northwest Sector Plan recognize the importance of preserving the character of the cultural landscape.
In 1980, the Florida Legislature recognized the historical and cultural influence of America’s first native-born naturalist to the scenic corridor by designating the SR 13 as the William Bartram Scenic Highway. As directed by the legislature, a historic aluminum sign has been placed along the scenic highway.
Within rural communities, the church functions as both the point of social contact and an important cultural resource. This tradition continues from the early Spanish mission at Popo Point to the modern churches. Today, local corridor churches have annual events, ranging from turkey shoots, fish fries, fall craft fairs, golf tournaments, pageants and spring carnivals.
Currently, a monthly Classic Car Rally occurs within the corridor. This rally affords the participants an opportunity to experience the rural ambiance of a canopy road. This canopied beauty attracts many artists who frequent the area for inspiration.
The visual arts culture is becoming more prevalent through events such as Paint the Region. C. Ford Riley is one of the artist who lives nearby on the river often paints the local wildlife and habitat. Carlton Wilder, another local artist, paints the local landscape. Some of Wilder’s paintings include historical steamboats on the St. Johns River.
Nature education and appreciation as well as birding are strong cultural activities. Alpine Grove was recently been designated as part of the Fish & Wildlife Commission’s Florida Birding Trail as found at http://floridabirdingtrail.com/index.php/trip/trails/east.
Historical Reenactments entertain and educate the local residents and the scenic highway travelers simultaneously during the annual William Bartram Bash.
The boating culture has been a very strong part of the history of the St Johns River beginning with the American Indians and then early European explorers. During this time the river was used as a major transportation route. Later during the industrialization of the United States steam boats carried cargo up and down the river. In twenty first culture, pleasure boating is a major activity whether it speed boating, water skiing, sailing and kayaking.
The festival and entertainment culture is very popular and along the William Bartram Scenic & Historic Highway. Every year there are approximately two or three festivals which includes the William Bartram Bash, Southern Exposure and Paint the Region.