Top Five Scenic Places on the UCF Campus

Walking around the UCF campus, you may think the grounds are pretty picturesque. There are live oaks around every corner, lowering their branches to the earth as they grow. Birds and squirrels have made a home of every awning and pavilion they become attached to. And then there are the bodies of water that pepper the landscape.

1. The Arboretum

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First, there’s the Arboretum. “I’m much more of an animal person,” said Jennifer Elliott, coordinator of Land Management for the Landscape & Natural Resources department, but working in the arboretum, she’s learned the names of plants, their genus and species.

All around us, there is this semblance of the natural world, just lingering on the edges of our vision. With our faces stuffed in textbooks and our hands constantly looking for the closest laptop to pound out the essay, which has been chewing at our collective conscience, who has the time to appreciate the scenery?

“All this concrete. Too much acid rain,” Elliott said as she put up her right hand in frustration, steering the Gator all-terrain vehicle along Gemini Blvd. toward Lake Claire.

Starting from Garage C and winding around the circumference of the campus, counter-clockwise, the arboretum is the first scenic place you can find.

The pavilion near the arboretum has solar-powered fans, lights and outlets which allow students to maintain a safe distance from civilization, yet feel connected to the more natural things in life. It’s as if you’re camping out in the middle of the woods in a state like Tennessee. You wouldn’t expect to be able to get a signal on your phone when you look down to check the time, then you realize you’re still within the boundaries of the campus.

2. Nissa Pond

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The circular area of about 20 feet in diameter makes up the Nissa Pond. The pond itself is actually an ephemeral pond, which holds water sometimes during the year, often during the rainy months of April and June.

It is named after the Nissa trees, which surround the bed of grass that make up the center of the pond. Dry during this period, it may benefit all manner of creatures within the coming months.

3. Pine Flatwoods Restoration Site

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There are tiny pine trees growing, barely reaching two-feet-tall, on the outskirts of the restoration site that Elliott helps maintain.

She said, “We burned this half in September of 2011,” she said as she indicated the section to the right of the dividing line separating the forestry which was burned in a control prescribed fire controlled by The UCF Certified Burn Crew, a program by the Landscape & Natural Resources department. “UCF has successfully burned 84 acres (35% of burnable lands) in the campus natural areas, and mechanically treated 76 acres as wildfire mitigation,” as it states on Landscape & Natural Resources website.

4. Oak Hammock

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The scent on the wind around Oak Hammock is a breath of fresh air. If you take a break between the live sand oak trees, you can hear the crunch of their leaves underfoot. Their scientific classification, quercus geminata, stems from the twin acorns, which come off the trees in pairs. This makes the crop of trees all the more appropriate as being on the UCF campus.

Located a mere five minutes from a trail originating off of Gemini Blvd., the theme of constellations correlates throughout the names of the streets around the university, as well as within the species of trees that grow around campus.

5. Lake Claire

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Though the nature trails were, well, deserted on Tuesday morning, Megan Edgley said the trails do get used.

“On average, we get about 5,500 participants a month at lake Claire,” said Edgley, graduate assistant of Outdoor Adventure at the UCF Recreation and Wellness Center.

“Most of those participants typically are there to use the beach, the pavilions, the grills, the open field and of course our rental equipment.” She said, “We have a lot of students that come out and use all the parts of our facility and also have classes that come out there and reserve our pavilions and utilize our equipment.”

The natural habit, which surrounds the center of the campus, from the Student Union to the parking garages, is often overlooked by students who are more focused on their studies than on the environment around them.

Walking back along that radial line from the arboretum toward the center of campus, you can hear the electricity in the air. When you’re trapped inside a concrete box for the majority of your day, it’s hard to imagine another world exists outside of a computer lab.

So, come and talk a walk through the nature trails on the edge of the UCF campus. Get away from all the noise and the pressure of schoolwork. Breathe in the clean air of fresh oxygen pumping through the life cycle of pure energy in the Arboretum and around Lake Claire, if only for 15 minutes.

Then you can head back toward the Arena or walk in the direction of Garage H where you can pick up your car and your books and concentrate on those finals you’ve been dreading all semester.

For more information, or to access trail maps, visit http://www.green.ucf.edu.

Published in Centric magazine.

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