I was fortunate to see Juniper Prairie Wilderness in February on a hike on the Florida Trail with my friends Bob and Bonnie Coveney. We witnessed a lot of damage from the 2006 blaze, more than I expected. Little did we expect what was to come.
Here’s what the Juniper Prairie Wilderness looked like prior to the fire. The loss of this beautiful area is heartbreaking.
We heard that it was caused by a camper putting out their campfire by throwing sand on it rather than pouring water on it. With all the water in the prairie ponds, that’s inexcusable.
The latest report estimates the damage at more than 10,022 acres between Juniper Springs and Pat’s Island. It will be at least another 20 years before the oak trees come back to a size to provide any shade for campers.
So many were already lost in the 2006 blaze and so few were left. The pines will sprout more quickly, of course, since the Big Scrub is a fire-dependent habitat.