It was supposed to be a fishing pond, nothing more.
Over time, the old property — an abandoned lime rock quarry — became just a swamp. It would take work for it to be even considered fishable.
However, when Dr. Raymond Webber purchased the property in 1991, he started cleaning up and renovating this swamp and he discovered the old lime quarry had some beauty to it.
Dr. Webber began envisioning even more.
There could be walkways, ponds, lush vegetation and plants — there could be animals, too, and there could even be waterfalls.
Dr. Webber brought that vision to life.
The end result is Cedar Lakes Woods and Gardens: a 20-acre botanical garden that is a sight to behold — an almost unbelievable find in Florida.
It’s a place that’s definitely Worth the Trip.
No stone unturned
When Dr. Webber, an Army veteran and retired dentist, began the process of giving himself a fishing pond, he dug out old mining remnants, but discovered during the process that he was just as enthusiastic for gardening as he was for fishing.
So, the botanical gardens started to take shape.
Rock by rock, each rolled in by wheelbarrows and strategically placed by human hands, the walkways and walls of the gardens were created.
Working with a small crew, he created different islands throughout the quarry, concrete walkways, separate pools, waterfalls, pavilions, gazebos and bridges.
The quarry walls are lined with concrete and rock planters, filled with hundreds of species of plants and flowers. The surrounding trees and the topography of the quarry allow temperate and semi-tropical plants to flourish year-round.
Then, just like Noah’s Ark, came the animals — two swans named Guenevere and Olivia, several ducks, pheasants, a goose, a squirrel named Delilah, a rose-breasted cockatoo named Rosie, numerous koi fish and a 100-pound blue catfish named Big Ben.
It’s as if a Garden of Eden sprung up in central Florida, with Dr. Webber overseeing its creation — a creation that would take more than 20 years to complete.
For all to enjoy
Cedar Lakes Woods and Gardens opened in 2014, and Dr. Webber founded the attraction as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit and donated the entire botanical garden — plus the 64-acre surrounding woodlands he also purchased — to Conservation Florida to ensure their future protection.
That’s why these botanical gardens are for everyone to enjoy, young and old. The gardens promote peace, humane education, animal rescue and environmental preservation as a certified National Wildlife Federation Habitat.
That being said, it takes about nearly two hours to enjoy every beautiful acre of the gardens. There are many benches and picnic tables throughout the trails, all of which have undulations and some several stairs — so be prepared to do some walking/hiking and be sure to wear proper shoes. The staff even encourages visitors to bring snacks or a picnic to enjoy on the grounds.
There are seats in the gazebos, as well as spectacular views of the ponds and waterfalls, such as Tim’s Gazebo high above the entire quarry. Additionally, the waterfalls can be enjoyed up close for a watery encounter, just like at Holt’s Hidden Falls.
The islands also provide a nice 360-view of the entire attraction and even include a few hammocks for a laid-back resting place.
It’s a paradise, Cedar Lakes Woods and Gardens, found inside a former lime rock quarry that many can’t believe even exists. It’s lush and colorful and gorgeous and a trip to Williston that begs the question, how did something so beautiful be born out of a swamp?
Dr. Webber answered that question, with his vision to give himself a fishing pond, but ended up giving the public, visitors and nature lovers something more.
A perfect place to spend an afternoon.
Cedar Lakes Woods and Gardens
Where: 4990 N.E. 180th Ave., in Williston
When: Open daily 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Closed Wednesdays. Open all holidays except Christmas Day.
Cost: Adults $12, Children ages 6 to 13, $7; Military, $6. Dogs are allowed.
Details: Founded by Dr. Raymond Webber and opened to the public in 2014, this nonprofit botanical garden used to be a 100-year-old lime rock quarry and was rebuilt for over 20 years to create different islands, concrete walkways, separate pools, waterfalls, pavilions, gazebos and bridges. The 20-acre gardens and the 64 acres of surrounding woodlands were donated to Conservation Florida.
Info: Visit CedarLakesWoodsAndGarden.com.
Published September 06, 2023