For an idea of what Titusville used to look like before Kennedy Space Center opened, take a stroll through Wuesthoff Park, a city of Titusville nature park. With a variety of habitats from red maple swamp to subtropical hammock, it’s a place that brings back childhood memories for any native of the area of tunneling through the woods behind your house.
Length: 1 mile
Lat-Lon: 28.555974, -80.825086
Fees / Permits: free
Bug factor: moderate
Restroom: at the Homer Powell Nature Center
Open 7 AM until dark. Pets not permitted.
From I-95, take SR 50 east towards US 1. Turn right on Barna Rd, and make the next right onto Wuestoff St. Parking is on the right at the end of the street.
A paved bike path leads you from the parking area down a “fitness trail” with various pieces of outdoor exercise equipment to the old Homer Powell Nature Center. Homer was one of the Boy Scout leaders when John was in Scouts here in the 1970s. There doesn’t seem to be much going on at the nature center these days, although there are restrooms open during daylight hours. The bike path continues on towards the far end of the park.
To get to the nature trails, cross the boardwalk over the marsh. Willows occupy the central portion of this marsh, and red maples show off their colorful leaves in the fall. The natural-surface trails start on the far side, immediately branching off at a Y intersection. Here’s where things get interesting. The trails aren’t marked, just beaten down, so you’re off on an adventure.
Walking straight ahead, it only takes a few moments to feel like you’re immersed in a primeval forest, despite being in the thick of suburbia. The bright berries of wild coffee and American beautyberry stand out in the understory against a palette of deep greens under a dense canopy of cabbage palms and oaks. Unmarked side and cross trails lead deeper into the woods, where poison ivy thrives in patches. Although it had recently been maintained, this main trail eventually faded away, leaving us wondering where to go next. We headed down a surprisingly steep slope in the forest, but didn’t see another path, so we backtracked to the Y junction.
Following the Y to the right, we passed under a very old live oak with a bench nearby. The trail eventually emerged up and over a sand ridge into an open area, where John remembered camping with the Scouts as a kid. We continued to the right, and followed this path into the next stretch of hardwood hammock, where it appears someone might be camping on a regular basis. The trail ended at the edge of this 25 acre park at a canal between the park and the neighborhood. Time to backtrack again.
In all, there is only about a mile of trails in Wuestoff Park, and officially only a half mile is maintained. But it’s enough to give you a feel of what much of Titusville was like before the 1960s.