Preserving the Past in Vero Beach, Florida

Mar 2013

My history in Florida is long and storied. When I first started visiting, our family would get to the beach through a machete cut foot path in what I would definitely call my version of a jungle, that would often be dotted with cougar footprints in the sand.

The scent from the orange trees was intoxicating, and we’d have a contest in the car to see who could be the first one to get a heady whiff through the open windows. While much has changed, one of the things I love about Vero Beach is the active preservation of open space and historical buildings.

During one of the recent hurricanes, part of the river area mangroves were destroyed, which opened up a spot that I had not seen exposed before on my Jungle Trail bicycle rides

Citrus pioneer Richard Milton Jones had one of the oldest homes on Jungle Trail. The county has purchased the 121 year old riverfront home and has plans to turn then16.5 acre homestead into a museum and public historic site.

Even though the citrus grove had an active scene with the locals to buy their fresh orange juice, the county’s oldest pier was the better known part of the property. The spot was abustle with local fishermen and market boats carrying produce from the barrier islands to the mainland before the first bridges in the area were built in 1919. In more recent years, boaters would come from 1000’s of miles away and tie up at Jone’s Pier for an overnight stay, including some of the rich and famous, from as far away as South Africa.

County officials said they plan to replant the grove with native plants, so it will resemble the original native hammock. Walking trails, a public boat ramp, fishing pier and picnic pavilion are all part of the future access for the public.

My father was a long time customer and often rode his bike to have a chat with Mr. Jones. “He loved the pier for the social interaction and the people he was able to meet who otherwise would have never crossed his path.” I’m glad the county has recognized the value of the spot, and chosen to take steps to preserve it to give the passer by a taste of a by of a bygone era.