Windley Key Day Returns March 21

Islamorada State Park throwing big birthday bash for state park service

Windley Key Fossil Reef Geological State Park is hosting a not-to-miss celebration. On Saturday, March 21 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., the park and its rangers will host a fun-filled day to celebrate the 85th Anniversary of the Florida Park Service, and everyone’s invited.

The free community event includes all the makings of any good party at a state park: ranger-guided nature hikes, guest speakers, activities for children, educational exhibits and a free native plant giveaway. 

Windley Key is known for being one of the locations where Flagler quarried limestone rock to build Overseas Highway, explains Park Scientist Becky Collins. The “Key Largo Limestone” rocks were later polished and used for building facades, becoming trendy in the area. 

“When you walk down into the quarries, you are actually walking into ancient coral reef,” says Collins. “You can see all kinds of ancient coral formations in the walls, from brain corals to star corals. Rangers focus on this unique historical and geological history on our guided tours.”

Windley Key is one of the four Islamorada Area State Parks. In addition to being a beautiful nature preserve, it has geological and historical significance. CONTRIBUTED

Park Manager for the Islamorada Area State Parks Lu Dodson adds, “Because of this, Windley Key joined the Florida Parks Service as a unique geological state park.”

All four Islamorada Area State Parks will be celebrated at the free community event, with guest speakers highlighting unique stories from each. Brad Bertelli will give a history of Indian Key Historic State Park, and Matthew Lawrence from the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary will speak about the shipwreck in San Pedro Underwater Archaeological Preserve State Park. Susan Kolterman will discuss how to landscape with native plants, a nod to Lignumvitae Key Botanical State Park.

“We want people to leave with an idea of all the different ways they can experience the area parks, from lectures, walks, talks, drawings and all kinds of fun things,” says Dodson. 

Over 1.5 miles of well-maintained trails run through the shaded hammocks, making for a perfect excursion on sunny or windy days. Numbered signs line the trails that correspond with the field guide, making self-guided tours a breeze. CONTRIBUTED

“We also have over a mile-and-a-half of wonderful hiking trails!,” adds Collins. “It’s a perfect way to spend a day outdoors but out of the sun.”

With a full day of fun and activities, there will be something for everyone at Windley Key Day. The educational village will showcase the work of some of our favorite environmental organizations. A special kid’s section under the trees in Flagler Quarry will have Junior Ranger activities, casting practice, a birding basics program, and a live animal presentation by the Florida Keys Wild Bird Rehabilitation Center.

Fig and Coral Wall
Parts of the old quarry have been overgrown by old-growth trees like this short-leaf fig growing over a limestone wall. CONTRIBUTED

The silent auction features a signed Giclee print by local artist Pasta Pantaleo, who started his career at Windley Key. 

“Pasta feels a special affection for this area, so he donated a limited edition, gallery-wrapped Giclee,” explains Dodson. “He will be there to personally present to the winner!,” she excitedly announces.

The festival will close with a cake-cutting (and free cake for everyone). 

A full event schedule and more information can be found online at FloridaStateParks.org or on the “Friends of the Islamorada Area State Parks” Facebook page. Funds raised will go to the “Friends.”

Tiffany Duong
Tiffany Duonghttp://tiffanyduong.com
Tiff Duong is self-made mermaid who loves all things cheesy (romantic and dairy) and thrives in the 3 am hour. She believes in leaving it all on the field and has never met a (mis)adventure she didn't love.

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