When the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences began consolidating
their Palatka Environmental and Agricultural Reserve research center in Apopka in 1996,
local citizens developed a conceptual master plan for the use of the property.
Through the Department’s Florida Communities Trust, funding was approved for
the PEAR Park Gateway that opens onto 50 acres of live oaks, magnolias and red
maples leading to the 263 acres of natural wetlands and multi-use trails along
the Palatlakaha River. The park provides habitat for more than 170 bird species,
including several endangered and threatened such as the Florida scrub jay.
Wildflowers and a butterfly garden attract some 40 species of butterflies.
A variety of mammals and reptiles including bobcats, gopher tortoises and
river otters find refuge there, while overhead, ospreys, hawks and kestrels
gracefully scout for food. Other amenities at the park include softball and soccer fields,
pavilions, several gardens, a dog park, playground and nature center.