The Pines Of Fort Zach Essay Contest • August 6, 2004
Selected by Rosalind Brackenbury
After the protest against removing the shady casurinas at Fort Zachary Taylor, the organizers set up a contest for the best piece of writing about these much-loved and appreciated trees. Here are some of the written results.
Essay by Sandra Lee
Fort Zachary Taylor was one of the first places I visited when I came to Key west. It was wild and heavily wooded with Australian pines. There were no parking facilities or toilets, showers or concession stands. No one took money at a gate and there were no picnic tables, beach or breakwaters. There was just a magnificent view of the water from a substantial height of fifteen or twenty feet that dropped straight down in a steep crag to the waters edge.
What made it so special was the wildness, the lack of amenities, the raw beauty of nature, and the sense of solitude without any visible trace of humanity. It was very much what I still remember and love about childhood visits to State Parks with my family. It was unknown territory. It was what it was without tweaking. It was Mother Nature at her best without any need for our so-called improvements. Beautiful, tall trees; soft filtered light; a persistent breeze that wicked away the humidity, and a carpet of needles underfoot with the clean smell of the sea and land to finish it off. It was a magical simple place. That raw natural setting enabled me to imagine how that spot must have felt centuries before. It was relaxing and exciting at the same time.
Natural parks are supposed to be areas preserved so that people can escape the demands and tempo of daily life. The calming and meditative effects of a brief return to nature without having to travel far to do so has numerous rewards. The unique location of Fort Zach enables those of us with busy lives to enjoy a return, if for just an hour or two, to a quiet uncluttered space; a little piece of the planet we like to call our own, without any of the cultural tools and baggage that are so often required.
Now that nearly every square inch of Key West has been built upon, paved or bricked or made into a tourist venue, some of us who are not getting any younger long for places that just are; Great parks are like great teachers. They encourage the young and old to discover, relax, and enjoy what separates them from ordinary daily experience. I want to visit the waters edge in ten years with a young child and recognize that marvelous raw majesty I experienced twenty-five years ago and share the simple beauty of that pine filled point overlooking the sea.