A fun and peculiar adventure not to be missed
Up in the Northern part of Walton County sits an extraordinary and interesting place called the Glendale Memorial Nature Preserve. What a great morning I had off the beaten path, exploring living things, rusted things, and eco-friendly methods of laying the deceased to rest. Where else can you find a bamboo farm, Rustaphorian sculptures, a chufa farmer and a green burial ground?
John Wilkerson, along with his brother Bill and John’s better half, Barbara run the Preserve, and offer the only green burial option available in Northwest Florida. Not only can you acquire this eco-friendly option, the Wilkerson’s offer what John calls “the perfect eco coup.”
The Wilkerson’s will harvest a tree, mill the wood into a bookshelf/casket on their 100 year-old saw mill then offer it for purchase. John’s philosophy is “grow a tree, turn it into lumber, fabricate the lumber into a casket that can be taken home and be used as a bookshelf. Then, when the time comes, your family can remove the shelves, roll you into it, and bury you near where the tree grew.
At the Preserve, each grave is surveyed with markers, brass at the head and aluminum at the foot to identify each gravesite. To date, 28 humans, 9 dogs, one cat, one Guinea pig and one chicken have been buried at the Preserve.
There is much more to see and enjoy as you take a tour of the Preserve on board the water-powered Rust-A-Bus.
Throughout the Preserve, you will also find more than 20 Rustaphorians characters – rusty metal sculptures crafted by the family from scrap materials. “The Rustaphorians have a stainless steel spiritual leader, Nessie,” John jokes. Nessie is crafted to the likeness of the Loch Ness Monster and can be found near the entrance to the Preserve.
The Preserve has several acres and many varieties of bamboo plants, and they have a nursery where you can purchase the plants, available for $10 and up, depending upon the size and variety.
The Wilkerson’s also grow chufa and velvet beans, however not as much as in the past. John says the lure of stirring up the dirt has become less desirable, and they are staying more focused on growing long leaf pines and keeping the rest of the Preserve in a more natural state.
What better way to spend a morning or afternoon, than exploring the unusual and coming away with a smile.
From U.S. Hwy 331 and Hwy. 90 in DeFuniak Springs go east on Hwy 90 to County Road 83. Go 10 miles, the Preserve will be on the right. It is hard to miss, you will see the Rustafarians, turn right when you see what looks like the head of a large missile.
Call ahead for reservations: (850) 859-2141
Hours: 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. Thursday – Sunday.
Requested donation: $10
297 Railroad Avenue
Defuniak Springs, Florida
Venture Walton is a feature column for outdoor enthusiasts in Walton County, Florida.
Lori Ceier can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org