Sunday, August 23, 2009

Village Point Preserve & Daphne Bayfront Park

My sons and I came upon the Daphne Bayfront Park almost by accident. We stopped to get gas at a convenience store and when one of the guys looked down the side street and noticed he could see Mobile Bay and suggested we drive down to it. The park itself is made up of a fishing pier, gazebo and the Richard Scardamalia Pavilion which the city of Daphne rents out. There are no grills in the park and the only restroom was a port-a-john. Adjacent to the park is the Village Point Preserve and it's nature trails.

Village Point Preserve was created along Mobile Bay by the city of Daphne. The park is approximately 2 miles of nature trails and boardwalks. It was once part of the D'Olive plantation created by Louis D'Olive in 1803 and in fact, the plantation's cemetery still exists along these trails. The cemetery site is the only location along the walking trails with picnic tables and port-a-johns. There is a kiosk with an audio recording to educate visitors about the D'Olive plantation history. Louis D'Olive and his wife are buried in the cemetery along with other family members. Many, but not all of the graves have been identified and there is an effort being made to preserve the graves. By the way, according to the kiosk recording D'Olive is pronounced doe-leave.

Not far from the cemetery site is the Jackson Oak; an enormous oak draped with Spanish moss. This tree is so huge I couldn't begin to capture the size of it on my camera so check out the link above. Legend has it that General Andrew Jackson rallied his 3000 troops from the branches of this ancient oak in 1814 while they were making their way to Pensacola to fight with the Spanish as part of the Battle of New Orleans. There is another kiosk at this location but the recording was not working they day we visited so I'm not sure what the city's official story is. Whatever it's history; the tree is majestic. The park has built a boardwalk around it to protect it generations to come.

The nature trails themselves allow for an easy hike. For the most part they're flat and there is shade at various points. There is no drinking water so be sure to bring your own, especially during the summer months. The trails are well maintained and some of them have signage posted to identify the plants for you. Benches have been provided all along the way. There is a second fishing pier at the end of one of the trails that also has a little beach. I was a little wary of using the beach area because there are signs everywhere warning the public to beware of alligators and snakes.

There is a variety of wildlife to see while hiking. One of the boardwalks crosses over an alligator lagoon where we spotted some very young gators sunning themselves on the beach. Birds are plentiful of course, so we saw blue herons, egrets, pelicans, and many, many others. My son's favorite siting was a blue tailed skink, a reptile we had never seen before. These tiny lizards are abundant in the park and the colors are beautiful.

We ended the day sitting in the air conditioning of Marble Slab Creamery on Hwy 90. Their ice cream is a little pricey but its great as an occasional treat. The park is located just off of Hwy. 98 at 6200 Bay Front Drive. It closes each day at sunset. So next time you feel like you need to go burn off a little energy and the weather outside is beckoning you, go walk the nature trails at Village Point Preserve.

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