Students hiking

Beyond the Trail: A Walk Through History

Come explore the largest urban park system in the United States!

Network with Northeast Florida environmental professionals and leaders!

 Learn about the history and culture that dates back over 10,000 years!

Make new friends on campus and within the community!

Through the Environmental Center’s “Environmental Leadership Program,” in 2016, student project leader Renee Hutchins created the original “Beyond the Trail: A Park Discovery.” She wanted to know more about how parks were managed and operated because her passion was to work for the national parks. Renee created four park events that partnered UNF students and community members. Park rangers from the national, state and city parks shared the “back office” stories of how each park system was managed and the unique challenges each faced.

In 2017, student project leader Kaley Crawford took the helm of the next series and because of her passion for history, she created “Beyond the Trail: A Walk Through History.”

“The speakers were very knowledgeable and it was unique to have such a wonderful history lesson at the very spot where the history occurred. It was a valuable out-of-classroom learning experience.”

One of the highlights was a private tour of the first designated archeological site in Northeast Florida, which is currently closed to the public. They learned this site dated back to 2000 A.D., which consisted of a large shell ring built by the Timucua Indians. It served as their “ancient landfill,” consisting of shells, animal bones and served as a human burial pit.

Group photo
The 2016-17 Beyond the Trail group at Fort Caroline National Memorial.
Student volunteers
Students participating in a service project at Camp Milton Historic Preserve.
Students hiking
Participants hiking to the shell ring on Big Talbot Island.

2017-2018 promises to be another fun-filled, unique experience for UNF students and community members! Project leader Brandie Brooks series, “Beyond the Trail: The Art of Science” is combining art and science that will get both the right and left brain working together. This year, participants will create a group art project made out of recycled items found during various cleanups and the other community service projects throughout the series. She is even bringing the past “alive” with a walk and talk by William Bartram, followed by a kayak paddle on the Julington-Durbin Creek!

photo of bridge at Camp Milton

Preservation Project Jacksonville: The Untold Story

A photo of a trail at Camp Milton Historic Preserve

An exciting history of conservation and preservation. The largest urban park system in the United States. Over 51,000 acres of preserved land. Would you guess that all of this is in Jacksonville, Florida?

For the past year, I have been speaking with and interviewing individuals who were pertinent to the creation of Preservation Project Jacksonville (PPJ). By hearing directly from those who experienced the project coming to fruition, I have recorded the story of PPJ, and created my own oral history project titled Preservation Project Jacksonville: The Untold Story. This project was created to bring awareness and appreciation for our local parks, which each have a story, and are here for us to enjoy for decades to come. Interviews so far have been held with Richard A. Mullaney, former legal counsel to the City of Jacksonville, Mark Middlebrook, CEO of the Timucuan Parks Foundation, former National Park Superintendent Barbara Goodman, and former Mayor John Delaney. The parks being studied for this project include Betz-Tiger Point Preserve, Camp Milton Historic Preserve, Huguenot Memorial Park, Julington-Durbin Creek Preserve, and Dutton Island Preserve.

To share my work recording the history of PPJ, information will be posted on this blog, bi-weekly on Monday mornings. You can look forward to reading background information about PPJ, pictures of the parks and individuals involved with them, and the actual interviews I have conducted. Listening to the stories of these parks being told by those who helped preserve them is something special and set Jacksonville apart from any other metropolitan city in Florida. My goal is to preserve these stories so that we may remember why these parks are here and their importance.

In 1999, Mayor John Delaney created the largest land acquisition program in Florida’s history, which became the impetus for PPJ. The original intent of the land acquisition program was to guide growth into different areas of the city. What started out as a small idea that would help parts of Jacksonville grow turned into a huge project which continues to impact our great city.

Click here to learn more about the parks on the City of Jacksonville’s website! Which park do you want to visit next?


A photo of Huguenot Memorial Park, located on North East Jacksonville's shores

A photo of Huguenot Memorial Park, located on North East Jacksonville’s shores