Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Violet Cury

You know the old saying about not noticing something that is right under your nose? It can easily be applied to Violet Cury Nature Preserve.

Despite being only a one minute drive from the intersection of Bearss and Bruce B. Downs, and only 2¼ miles from the bustling campus of USF, Violet Cury is unknown even to most residents who pride themselves on being outdoorsy. It was acquired by Hillsborough County in 1995 and opened to the public in 2000, after Jeff Zwolenski directed the routing of trails through it as part of an Eagle Scout project.

I visited early Sunday when the temperature was a perfect 58 degrees, and spent 90 minutes snapping pictures while strolling the paths. The preserve’s oak-pine woods were lovely and the decomposing of its dead trees surprisingly scenic:

This place has an interesting way of putting things into perspective, like how much life can exist on a piece of land, and how large a particular piece of land is even if the figure you hear doesn’t sound large.

Violet Cury consists of 160 acres, and on the one hand that does sound big. It is the same amount homesteaders got for pulling up stakes in the Oklahoma land rush, and it is easy to visualize herds of cattle being reared on a ranch that size…But on the other hand, 160 acres does not seem all that big when you try to visualize it as a preserve traversed by trails and sustaining hundreds of varieties of plants and animals. It is especially hard to visualize it in that context when you are told that the 160 acres are surrounded on all sides by varying degrees of development, as is the case with Violet Cury.

However, a walk through here will show you that 160 acres is indeed significant. Violet Cury contains multiple habitats plus a named body of water, Lake Flynn. When its forests surround you there is no doubt you are in Nature’s domain, and the nearby city and next-door suburbs suddenly seem a world away.

Another thing Violet Cuty puts into perspective is how much beauty goes unnoticed simply because people fail to look. This picture, which I took from the preserve’s entrance, shows that an old neighborhood sits right across the street:

There is no parking lot or grand gateway at the entrance, only a modest sign and this walk-through opening in the fence:

And inside that opening it is only 62 steps to the spot pictured below, which I believe to be a shallow sinkhole reclaimed by plant life. On Sunday its far end was filled with blooming flowers; on my only previous visit, back in 2007, it held standing water from recent rains and there were egrets and ibis milling around it. But my point is, of all those people who live right across the street and all those who drive by the entrance every day, how many have no idea that this sight exists a mere 62 steps away?

A similar thought went through my mind at the spot where I took the next two photos. I looked west and took the one of the pond, then looked east and took the one in which you can see two houses in the distance, obviously by the preserve’s boundary. Surely the owners of those houses gaze into the preserve and appreciate that they don’t have noisy neighbors behind them, but I wondered: Do they appreciate the beauty by which they live? Do they ever start a morning by walking through the preserve? Have they ever brought a fishing pole to this pond to kill some time? Do they realize that bass must be lurking beneath those lily pads? For their sake, and their children’s, I hope the answer to each of those questions is yes.

Clearly, I am a big fan of Violet Cury. It is an excellent place to spend a morning and will surely open your eyes to how much natural space exists in our area. But unless you plan on standing still for a long time or taking a nap, you will not be here all day. 160 acres is significant, to use my word, but nowhere near boundless; and by my calculations the trails total just 2.35 miles. This is the kind of place where you can take your time soaking up the scenery and smelling the proverbial roses, yet still be home well before lunch.

If you like viewing wildlife, there are many species to be on the lookout for. Among those catalogued in the preserve are fox squirrels, gopher tortoises, and pinewoods tree frogs. On Sunday all I saw were gray squirrels scurrying along branches; but on that 2007 visit I mentioned earlier, I had my all-time closest encounter with coyotes, when I happened upon one standing in the middle of the trail who was soon joined by another. They faced me head on for what was probably only two or three seconds, but felt like five or six minutes, before they finally dashed off into the woods.

To reach Violet Cury’s entrance, turn west onto Sinclair Hills Road from Livingston Avenue and drive a half-mile, or east onto it from Nebraska Avenue and drive six-tenths of a mile. There is an alternate entrance at the north end of North 15th Street.

In closing, below is a picture from Sunday of what passed for fall color. Hey, what Central Florida lacks in changing leaves, it at least makes up for with late blooming flowers!

Happy Trails!


  1. My fisherman husband would never miss a fantastic spot like this one in a million years. We enjoy walking trail and viewing 'untouched by man' Florida.

  2. Hello JDS, as the daughter of violet Cury and my grandparents that bought this land and loved the nature and peacefulness I can only say that it makes me happy to know that it is being appreciated and kept in it's most natural way, as it was when we were there..My Grandfather stocked bass there, I rode horses there, we walked and explored all of the different parts and we swam and loved all the animals that we found..I hope that children will see how important it is to preserve the animals and nature undisturbed. My mother would have loved that.

    1. Elaine what a fantastic space. It is great to have memories like that. We came across some building ruins, was it a former house?

  3. Great park very naturalistic trails a bit disconcerting taking the edge and abutting the back of an apartment complex though... from chirping of insects to clacking of tongues as it were!

  4. We discovered this beauty today. Great place we hope to get back when it is cooler. I have a question, we found building ruins were they a former house? Thanks for your great post.