by Darren Rosenbaum
For an escape, there’s almost nothing more exciting than zip-lining. Today, you can find these high-speed thrillers all over the place. On eco-tours throughout the Americas. At ski resorts in the Rockies and New England. Even at EverBank Stadium during half-time. And while they’re all fun, there’s only one I know of that has you zipping between massive oaks over hundreds of gators and crocs and that’s Crocodile Crossing at the Alligator Farm in St. Augustine.
If you haven’t visited the Alligator Farm recently, you might not know of Crocodile Crossing, an attraction added in 2011. As the folks at Alligator Farm tout, Crocodile Crossing is a “one-of-a-kind experience, (where) participants zip over the entire park, literally seeing live crocodilians, lemurs and tropical birds from a new perspective.” There are two courses; The Sepik Course which takes about 45 minutes to complete and has 3 zip-lines and the Nile Course which takes about 90 minutes start to finish, reaches heights of 60 feet and boasts 9 zip-lines! Topping it off are the dozen or so moving aerial obstacles that connect the zip-line platforms.
Recently, my son Josh and I took the challenge. After signing in, everyone sits for a mandatory 15 minute lesson given by one of the park safety operators on the features of your waist harness, safety lines and trac-pulley. Ours was skillfully taught by Assistant Manager Bobby Delong, who eased the concern of many by assuring us that the Petzl gear strapped to our waist could hold the weight of a small car.
As soon as we were done learning the basics, we thanked Bobby and were off! Josh headed out first and scrambled over the aerial obstacles to the first platform with the self-confidence of someone who’d done this since birth. At the first zip-line he secured his trac-pulley and safety lines, jumped up to release his weight to the harness, and ‘flew’ like a pro, zipping through the air at high speed. Kids! Then it was my turn. Not one to be outdone by their teen, I double checked my safety lines, swallowed hard and… Woo hoo! What a thrill! And, unlike 45 seconds of fun once an hour at a theme park in central Florida, I still had 8 more chances to fly over gators and crocs on the Nile Course!
Part of the enjoyment of any outdoor adventure comes from meeting people along the way. I was lucky to meet Alyssa and Charlie Woodbury, a local couple who thought ‘outside-the-box’ and celebrated their 6th anniversary with an afternoon of zip-lining! While Charlie said he’d mountain climbed and rappelled and wasn’t nervous, Alyssa was ‘nervous going into it’, but said Bobby’s pre-course training helped her ‘feel at ease with the process’. After completing the course, both said they would recommend Crocodile Crossing as an exciting activity for friends and family.
As many of you know, a day spent at the Alligator Farm makes for a great time. Maybe it’s watching Maximo the 15 foot croc feed, visiting the fossil exhibit or walking through the bird rookery that brings you back time and again. Now, with the addition of Crocodile Crossing, it’s game, set, match for the Alligator Farm. As for me, I can’t say enough about the thrill of zip-lining at Crocodile Crossing. Except for… Woo hoo!
There are so many interesting things happening in the food revolution and many of them are right here in St. Johns Florida. Learn about CSA’s, local farms and providers in our community.CSA Community Supported Agriculture
Thinking about signing up for a CSA but want to learn more about the idea before you commit?
Here are the basics: a farmer offers a certain number of “shares” to the public. Typically the share consists of a box of vegetables, but other farm products may be included. Interested consumers purchase a share (aka a “membership” or a “subscription”) and in return receive a box (bag, basket) of seasonal produce each week throughout the farming season.
Local Fare Farm Bag
Owners of Local Fare Farm Bag, Cora & Chris Curry are passionate about food. Chris was an Executive Chef in Savannah, Georgia and his restaurant had its own organic garden so when he moved here he was disappointed at the lack of whole foods available and wanted to do something about it. They landed on the idea of delivering bags of local produce, meats, eggs, breads and honey to homes. It is similar to a CSA but the Curry’s do no not own a farm. They simply gather the food for the bags and then deliver it to your doorstep. It is an excellent way for families to get local food without the time-consuming aspect of going to the farm to pick up your share.
They are particular about which farms and other providers, using only the best available. For instance, they invited me to tag along for a visit to St. Johns Family Farm where they get fresh eggs (see pictures of the farm on this page). They recently introduced meat to the Farm Bag as well. Chris and Cora dream of one day opening a grocery that provides only local foods.
The Curry’s describe thier business: Seasonal, locally sourced produce delivered straight to your home or office weekly. Includes a variety of vegetables, fruits, herbs and a hand crafted loaf of bread. We also send a weekly newsletter with your subscription that tells you what is going on in the world of agriculture and gives you recipes using the ingredients that are included in your delivery. Our delivery areas include Jacksonville, Ponte Vedra, Orange Park, Middleburg, Fleming Island, St Johns, Atlantic Beach, Neptune Beach, Oakleaf & more!
A Family Tries a CSA
Community Supported Agriculture
The presence of chemicals and preservatives in our processed foods has caused many people, especially families with young children, to look for organic alternatives. It also forces people to be more responsible about food on every level and be part of the larger green revolution that will benefit future generations of Americans.
Most people involved with CSA’s say their shares are amazing, carrying them through a natural growing season (2 in Florida) with items both familiar and new. Butter lettuce that melts in your mouth, crispy cucumbers, juicy heirloom tomatoes, onions, garlic, sweet corn, eggplant, Swiss chard, arugula, and a variety of squash. You may also be introduced to more exotic vegetables like Bok Choi.
In some cases you can pick up your share directly at the farm. Going to the farm is the perfect opportunity for children to ask questions and learn about the growing process. They should understand that the food they eat does not magically appear at the grocery store, packaged and ready for consumption. Our family learned that green beans come from a plant with curly vines and the best tasting carrots and tomatoes sometimes look ugly and mis-shapen. Eating local also means the people who planted the seeds and nurtured them into the plants we picked were our neighbors. Most CSA’s offer a few recipes and describe the week’s harvest so you can make the best of your share.
If you would like to find a CSA in your area, Local Harvest, an organization based in Santa Cruz, California, provides a search engine of CSA’s nationwide by city or zip code. Go to localharvest.org/csa for more information.
Nearby Farms & Providers
Old school farming is making a comeback here in North East St Johns County. Just ask Dawn Hutchins a local food blogger with Florida Coast cooking. “As a food blogger in the local area I have had the pleasure of working with Vivian and Francisco the owners of KYV Farm. They grow everything from broccoli and potatoes to arugula and rutabaga - good ole turnip. They don’t use chemical pesticides or fertilizers, using crop rotation, companion cropping, green manure which uses the uprooted dying plants in soil to increase nutrient levels. KYV farms also manages the Berry stack Hydroponic u-pick Farm seen from I-95. Vistors can pick berries and access the whole farm. KYV is a community supported Farm.
Saint Johns Family Farm (Across from Cunningham Creek Elementary) www.saintjohnsfamilyfarm.com
One rainy day I visited this live working farm where chickens, goats and ducks live in a clean, comfortable environment. The farm, which sits way back in the wild area just off Roberts Road, is owned by Manny and Yvonne Granados whose approach is to use humane, traditional and sustainable methods. The chickens here have freedom to roam around the aviary and chemicals are not used to clean the outer layer off the eggs, so the nutrition remains high. Lucky for residents of northern St. Johns the farm has a roadside stand we can visit in the afternoon. If you do not have time to visit you can get these fresh eggs in your local Fare Farm Bag!!
Manny & Yvonne’s philosophy: Utilizing only humane and sustainable methods. We don’t think that bigger and standardized is better. Small, local food production with complete transparency for the customer is the solution to questions of food safety and environmental protection.
Black Hog Farm in Palatka.
Black Hog Farm owner Sharon Watkins firstname.lastname@example.org is a new kid on the block. They are growing in popularity as they do doorstep delivery. Black Hog provides fresh meat products delicious and no nonsense ingredients. The Fresh Farm movement is making headway as more locally grwon food is transcending to consumers making its way to your kitchen table and local restaurants.
Down to Earth Farm in Jacksonville
Twinn Bridges Farm (Beaches Farmers Market)
Other Area Organizations
Girls Gone Green www.thegirlsgonegreen.com
Slow Foods www.slowfoodfirstcoast.org
Beaches Local Food Network www.beacheslocalfoodnetwork.org
St Johns County public schools will open two new K-8 state of the art elementary schools in 2014. In the process they will change the landscape of current zoning in northern St. Johns County.
The new schools will be located in Durbin Crossing, to the North West just off St. Johns Parkway on Long Leaf Pine, and in Nocatee off 210 West. The board of education has been taking suggestions from community members and will decide on names for the schools this March but until then Durbin is known officially as HH and Nocatee as II.
The district has made it easy for local neighborhood residents to discover where their home is zoned. Simply click on to St Johns County Public Schools website and plug in a home address. You can click on zoning maps for the current elementary, middle and high schools.
St. Johns County Public Schools Director of Community Relations, Christina Langston says the district does not anticipate any new zone changes prior to the 2014-2015 school year. Ms. Langston noted that St. Johns County is the fastest growing school district in the state, with students performing so well on standardized tests it has an A+ rating in the state of Florida. The new schools are located within communities surrounded by pristine wooded forests, nearby ball fields and offer families a lifestyle of resort living where families can live work play and children can walk and ride their bike to school.
North West K-8 HH will be zoned for Durbin Crossing North and Durbin Crossing South. Aberdeen is slated for a future school but is currently zoned for Bartram Trail. Sitting on 25 acres the Durbin Crossing k-8 is adjacent to four baseball fields, 2 multi-purpose fields and 3 sports fields along with a skateboarding park and park for dogs! All of this in walking distance to the neighboring homes.
One couple looking for the right community in St Johns County said they found Durbin Crossing was just the perfect place for them. “We can walk to everything without leaving our neighborhood. The parks, the pool, the amenities are in walking distance to the new elementary school. Our kids like their school friends within biking distance and we love the small-town feel of Durbin”.
St. Johns County Sheriff James Jackson, recently moved to Durbin. “Living in Durbin Crossing has been great. Its got so many nature preserves, that you forget your in a neighborhood. I am happy kids will be able to walk and ride their bike to their own neighborhood school.”
Emily Harrison formerly the principal at Alice B. Landrum Middle will be the new Principal at the school in Durbin Crossing. “I am excited about having the opportunity to work with both elementary school students, creating a successful connected campus model and preparing students for the lives they will lead beyond their formative and transitional years” said Harrison. “The K-8 model presents families within a community a unique chance to watch growth develop over the course of many years”
Nocatee, located in the northeast pocket of Ponte Vedra, is the site of the other K-8 II, with the same prototype as K-8 school (HH). As of January 2014, zoning will include both Nocatee and non Nocatee residents, including Greenleaf Village, GreenLeaf Preserve, Austin Park and Willow Cove, Non residents of Nocatee at Walden Chase, Quail Ridge. The Oaks and Florentine will all go to the new school K-8 school. Ocean Palm Elementary students will include those families in Coastal Oakes, Enclave, Kelly Pointe, Lakeside at Town Center and Tidewater.
Nocatee resident newcomer Barbara Walters knows all to well how resort style living meets a small town neighborhood feeling. The effervescent Welcome Lady at the Newcomer Center said she came from California looking for resort style living with a diverse group of people. “I love the various amenities, the nature preserves, biking paths and I really enjoy being close to the beach, stores and cultural center. Nocatee truly has something for everyone. “
Wayne King, formerly the Principal at St Johns Technical High School will now serve as the new principal at the Nocatee school. According to Spokeswoman Christina Langston, both schools will keep incoming eighth graders at their current schools for transitional purposes. “ I feel honored and privileged to have the opportunity to open a new school and believe my vast experience in middle and high school settings will help me prepare elementary students for a smooth transition to their secondary grade levels,” said King.
Green features such as those used at Palencia Elementary, which was completed two years ago, will be the prototype for both K-8 schools in Durbin and Nocatee. The two-story school concept will include state of the art technology, an indoor gym and an outdoor pavilion playground. According to Paul Rose, Executive Director for Facilities & New Construction the schools will be eco friendly, with green building standards and energy conservation including an energy efficient ice-cooling air conditioning system, interior and exterior lighting sensors and highly reflective roofing; all part of an overall energy management system.
The schools will each house approximately1000 students and have 58 classrooms. Each school will have 3 wings with 13 classrooms in each, as well as an extended learning area that includes a kitchen, a tech area and art space. The schools will also have separate rooms for art and band. The latest technology will be accessible from every classroom with built-in sound enhancement systems that project the teacher’s voice or the lesson throughout the room. Ceiling mounted projectors help incorporate live, technology-based lessons directly on whiteboards.
Ms. Langston reports that the district anticipates a community night in Fall 2014 when everyone is welcome to see the schools first hand. For more information go to: http://www.stjohns.k12.fl.us/rules/zoning/
St. Johns Golf & Country Club
St. Johns Golf & Country Club may be only minutes from the conveniences of modern-day living but residents feel a world away. The community of single-family homes built around an 18-hole golf course boasts a resort-like pool, fitness center, tennis courts, restaurant, pro shop and banquet space. There are activities to delight residents of all ages which is particularly important since the community consists of a mix of families with and without children at home and spanning many decades. St. Johns Golf & Country Club is one of only a few communities in northwest St. Johns County where golf carts are permitted on the roads within the neighborhood and where natural gas is available in the community.
What might you find residents doing within the community on any given day? Taking a painting class, playing tennis or golf, competing on the swim team, attending a Scout meeting, enjoying Happy Hour, going to summer camp, meeting friends at the clubhouse for a card game, taking a yoga class or boot camp or enjoying lunch or a special dinner at The Grille Room. With so much to do and friendly neighbors it’s easy to see why people love living in SJG&CC. *Informaton provided courtesy of Julie Bentley, Realtor® Watson Realty Corp
World Golf Village
There's a whole world beyond golf in World Golf Village. Conveniently situated between Jacksonville and St. Augustine right off I-95 in St. Johns County, World Golf Village features 20 distinctive neighborhoods and miles of walking trails. It’s a world where block parties and cookouts are the nightlife, and the sounds of kids playing and birds chirping fill the air. Families choose World Golf Village for the St. Johns County A-rated schools, and of course its amenities galore. In addition to the renowned championship golf at the King & Bear and Slammer & Squire, the community is home to the acclaimed World Golf Hall of Fame and IMAX® Theater, a year-round heated Junior Olympic-sized swimming pool, lighted tennis courts, playground, fitness center, and clubhouse. From luxury custom homes to carefree condominiums, there are a variety of homes to choose from. Learn more at www.WorldGolfRealEstate.com and make World Golf Village a World of Your Own.*Information provided courtesy of Davidson Realty
210 West Corridor
Hundreds of families have chosen to live along the western corridor of CR210 in St. Johns and it is easy to understand why. Whether you live in one of a dozen planned communities or in a home that has been here for decades this corner of St. Johns County has much to offer. Within minutes of leaving home you can be on I-95 and on your way to Jacksonville to the north or Old St. Augustine to the south and both the beach and the St. Johns River are only a short drive away. Once you live here you may find that you don’t often leave. The area is served by St. Johns County’s A-Rated schools and along with the amenities that many communities offer their residents there are 3 golf courses, nearby ball fields, dance and martial arts studios, a gym, spa and preschool. Dining options include pizza, pubs and grills, Mexican, Japanese and Chinese restaurants and fast food. There are 2 grocers and 2 drug stores and health services include dentists, primary care physicians, optometrists, chiropractors, orthodontists and clinics. Also along this corridor you can get a haircut, consult with an attorney or insurance agent, do your banking, buy wine and spirits from a knowledgeable shopkeeper, ship packages, buy a bike or visit a garden center. It’s no wonder so many people call this area home! * Information provided by Julie Bentley, Watson Realty.
Walden Chase was started in 2001, and fully built out in 2006. This neighborhood consisting of 540 homes was built solely by 2 builders, KB Homes and Mattamy Homes. A variety of one story and 2 story stucco homes steer away from the cookie cutter look. Lush landscaping, various ponds, and pride of ownership prevails throughout. It is located right next to Nocatee and is increasing in value due to the Nocatee school, which is K-8, opening in the Fall of 2014.
This fun and friendly neighborhood offers a community Pool, tennis and basketball courts are available to all for use, and the HOA dues are only $460.00 a year, and there are no CDD fees. With only 8 miles to the ocean, it’s just a short distance to the area beaches and historic St. Augustine Short commute to all of Jacksonville amenities. The location is fantastic! * Information provided by Gina Sharp, Realtor® Watson Realty Corp
Now the 5th Best Selling Community in the Country! Located on nearly 15,000 acres of which over 9,000 acres has been reserved for permanent preserve, community parks, dog parks and protected areas continues to grow in every direction. Recent announcements of 8 more developments opening in 2014 will bring well over 2,000+ additional new home options to Nocatee ranging in price from $200,000 to over $1,000,000.
The Nocatee Splash Water Park is expanding again with more pools for family entertainment along with new garden areas, kayak launches near the intracoastal waterway and more! The first of several Nocatee schools is scheduled to open for the next school year and will be for K-8. 2014 will see a new gas station/car wash/Dash Diner open near the Nocatee Town Center, office building condominiums are also planned to be open by year end and are being sold and leased as we speak. Plans are underway for building our own Fire Department and emergency dispatch center this year and Baptist Health has announced plans for a 60,000 square foot primary care facility in the Nocatee Town Center, providing outpatient care in the areas of family medicine, pediatric and internal medicine for adults and children. Nocatee is conveniently located 10+ minutes to the ocean and Ponte Vedra Beach restaurants, clubs and shopping while also having easy access to I-95 for those heading to Jacksonville or further South. The Nocatee Lifestyle is waiting for you! *Information provided courtesy George Ballou II, Realtor® Watson Realty Corp
Aberdeen is a newer master planned community nestled around a large wetland conservation area in Northwest St. Johns county adjacent to Julington Creek Plantation and West of Durbin Crossing. The community spans over 1,300 acres with more than 500 acres of wetland conservation and more than 65 acres of lakes.
Aberdeen is located within minutes to Interstates 95 and 295 and conveniently located close to shopping, schools, restaurants and a short drive to historic St. Augustine and Ponte Vedra beach. Home sites include over 1,600 single-family lots and 168 multi-family homes including town homes and condominiums. Homes vary from all different types of floor plans, sizes and styles for all age groups. Resort style community amenities include a Resident Center featuring a clubhouse, exercise fitness center, pools, water slide, tennis and basketball courts, child’s playground, sports fields, scenic walking trails, and a community picnic park.
*Information provided as a courtesy from: Bill and Nina Bay, Realtors® Watson Realty Corp.
Durbin Crossing is a newer master- planned community located in Northwest St. Johns county adjacent to Julington Creek Plantation, that offers residents the perfect blend of natural beauty, upscale resort style amenities. Convenient location to schools, shopping, restaurants and interstate highways. Durbin Crossing is located only a short distance to nearby historic St. Augustine, Ponte Vedra beach and Jacksonville.
The community features over 1,000 acres of conservation area, 39 lakes, over 24 acres of passive parks, and over 36 acres of community parks.
Two amenity centers include pools, water slide, exercise fitness room, tennis, basket ball, and volley ball courts, child’s playground, skateboard park, multi-purpose sports fields, and multiple scenic nature trails for hiking, biking and walking.
Durbin Crossing offers a carefree lifestyle for all age groups that includes daily recreational activities, events, and community parties for residents of all ages.
The majority of home sites over look wooded areas, natural nature preserves, or peaceful lake views. Durbin Crossing offers a wide variety of home sizes and styles to choose from. *Information provided as a courtesy from: Bill and Nina Bay, Realtors® Watson Realty Corp.
Julington Creek Plantation
As a lifelong Jacksonville resident, Fruit Cove was a place to camp out and hunt on the weekends, in my youth. My love affair with the river was realized when I moved “Out Here” in the late ‘70’s. Fruit Cove/Switzerland, now is called “St Johns”, a name change to blend all the others into one new postal zip code. Historically, it was a farming community of, mostly, citrus groves. In the old days, a ferry carried passengers from Mandarin to Fruit Cove, even though most of the commercial traffic was by riverboat, from Jacksonville and beyond. A nice, new concrete bridge was built to much fanfare in 1956, replacing the old wooden bridge that stood for years. With the St johns River as the Front door and westerly boundary, State Road 13 has been designated as a “Scenic Highway” by the State of Florida. The Grandfather Oaks have been nicely preserved and harken back to an “Old Florida” feeling. A “Growth Management” plan was put into law in the early ‘90’s that restricted commercial construction along this corridor. In the mid ‘90’s St Johns County purchased an old family citrus grove on the river in Switzerland, and built Alpine Groves, a beautiful, natural public park, offering kayak and canoe access and sunsets every day. An important feature of our area are the “A” rated public schools, and multiple sports fields for recreation.
*Information provided coutesy of Charlie Hillyer Broker-Realtor Berkshire Hathaway Home Services Florida Network Realty, LLC 904-509-3130
St. Johns Magazine blog features articles written by & about the people, places and events of St. Johns and the surrounding communities.