The Florida Park Service recognized the Friends of Gamble Rogers with a CSO (Citizen Support Organization) of the Year Award for the Native Plant Landscape renovation at the Ranger Station.
In 2019, the entryway into the park was upgraded with an additional traffic lane and new paving. The CSO board believed the landscape around the Ranger Station deserved a botanical uplift as well and undertook a project to improve this piece of land, beautifying and giving it the attention it deserves as one of the first areas park visitors see as they drive in.
An advisory committee was formed in the fall of 2020 by Greg Wilson, Paul Rebmann, and Park Services Specialist (PSS) Stephanie York to develop a project timeline, budget, design and funding ideas. The committee reviewed the plant list found in the park’s Unit Management Plan, conferred with the park biologist, Alice Bard, and determined only native plants already found within the boundaries of the park would be used in the design. With that decision in place and an initial budget of $600, the committee decided to seek design and installation proposals from local native plant landscape designers. The committee interviewed two designers to determine which best captured the vision of the board for this project. Renee Stambaugh of Native Plant Consulting won the hearts of the committee, and a plan was put in place to “sow the seeds” of the beautification project.
In order to have the new plants in place by spring of 2021, the CSO board approved an additional $2,200 to fund the entire landscape improvement project, dubbing it the Gamble Native Plant Garden.
An important component of the design was that there would be a variety of plants to provide color throughout the year. Today when visitors enter the park, they are greeted with the large but dainty purple flowers of the spiderwort in the Spring, showy yellow flowers of the partridge pea and beach sunflower with pops of red gaillardia blooms throughout Summer, and waves of purple muhly grass and yellow stalks of seaside goldenrod in the Winter.
PSS Stephanie York coordinated the day of planting and recruited resident and regular service volunteers, CSO board members and staff. Seventeen intrepid volunteers descended on the area and, under the direction of the designer, placed and planted nearly 230 plants, spread over 100 bales of pine straw and watered the new landscaping in under three hours to complete the installation! The new plantings were small at the beginning of 2021 but have grown into an attractive natural landscape offering color and native habitat to be enjoyed by all. The new garden provides opportunities to educate visitors on the importance of native plants. Visitors frequently compliment the beauty of the garden.