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Green Cay Wetlands

Without the sanctuary of Green Cay and Wakodahatchee, I may nearly have lost my mind this past year. No joke. Both boardwalks/wetlands are an oasis of green, here in suburban Delray Beach (land of wayward development and concrete). Located on Hagen Ranch Road between Woolbright Road and Atlantic Avenue, it’s open seven days a week, making it readily available to the public.The present-day wetlands are the progeny of Ted and Trudy Winsberg who, for more than 40 years, grew vegetables at their Green Cay Farm. Time passed and surrounding farms were razed for commercial development. But the Winsbergs’ love for the land prompted their most generous gift: 100 acres of protected land. In its pre-farmland existence, the land was open prairie with wetland areas. But it has now been transformed into an Everglades ecosystem, with marsh habitat, intermittent tree islands, and cypress hammocks. Along the 1.5-mile elevated boardwalk are helpful signage about the habitat, as well as traditional Seminole chickee huts. Designed to naturally filter several million gallons of highly treated water daily from Palm Beach County’s Southern Region Water Reclamation Facility, the wetlands also help to recharge groundwater resources and maintain earth’s water cycle. Green Cay incorporates 86 different species of trees, shrubs, and aquatic vegetation to manage this feat. Additionally, the 9,000-square-foot Green Cay Nature Center is one of the county’s newest nature centers, and features a host of interactive exhibits and programs, providing educational opportunities about South Florida’s unique wetland habitat. A pioneer in the fields of wastewater treatment and reclaimed water distribution, the Palm Beach County Water Utilities Department has proven its effective and innovative management philosophies in the Green Cay Wetlands.

Besides affording a sublime stroll, Green Cay is a birdwatcher’s paradise — a camera and/or binoculars are always handy. Common bird sightings include egrets, herons, ducks, grebes, bitterns, ibis, moorhens, warblers, blackbirds, cardinals, owls, hawks…and the list goes on. Many turtles make their home at the wetlands, including the Florida Red-bellied Turtle and the Peninsular Cooter. Marsh rabbit can also be seen in the grassy and low-lying marsh areas. As always, alligator sightings are common at Green Cay, and non-poisonous snakes and frogs live on the fringes of the boardwalk. But I’ve even had the most fortunate sighting of a shy bobcat.

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