By Gary McKechnie

There’s nothing quite like getting on the road and finding something absolutely new and absolutely neat.

Like Alpine Groves Park south of Jacksonville.

Actually, it’s more south of Orange Park and you’ll find it along Highway 13 (aka: the William Bartram Scenic & Historic Highway) and right beside the wide and wonderful St. Johns River.

Nancy and I were heading south on Highway 13 near the town of Switzerland, Fla., when we spotted a sign pointing the way in. There was a special event there that day and volunteers there were hoping to raise funds to help restore the historic home here. I have nothing but respect for county commissioner Cyndi Stevenson, who was donating her time to be here and help the friends of Alpine Park, who are all trying to do something good for the community.

Coming here is like going back in time. Surrounded by towering oaks and magnolia trees and the slow and steady St. Johns’, there’s a palpable feeling of Old Florida throughout the park’s 54 acres.

This was an old citrus grove once and there’s an old packing house next to the homestead. Now, since this is a county park, they’ve modified the grounds a bit with a butterfly garden and a farm-themed playground.

There are picnic areas and a wooded trail and canoes and a launch track. It’s also a designated destination on the Great Florida Birding Trail, which means that eagles, osprey, owls, wood ducks and other species may be here to welcome you.

If you’ve forgotten what Florida looks like – what it really looks like minus traffic and strip malls and towering buildings – visit Alpine Groves Park.

Come here and relax to the sights and sounds of nature, read a book, take photographs, paint pictures, enjoy a picnic lunch in the shade of an oak tree or at a pavilion, plan a wedding…

And remind yourself just how good Florida can be.

If you go...

Alpine Groves Park
2060 State Road 13
Switzerland, Florida
(904) 209-0348
Daily, dawn to dusk

For pavilion rentals and wedding reservations, call Joanne Pius at (904) 209-0333 (