The Fruit & Spice Park is a 37-acre subtropical paradise nestled in the heart of the historic Redland community just 35 miles south of Miami. Surrounded by thousands of acres of tropical agriculture, the Park is a jewel in South Florida’s agricultural community attracting over 50,000 visitors a year to its gardens and festivals. More than 500 varieties of exotic fruits, herbs, spices and nuts from around the world; 180 varieties of mangos; 70 varieties of bamboo; 40 varieties of bananas; 15 varieties of jackfruit trees and numerous other exotic edibles are grown and maintained here.
Jim Stribling, current manager of the Fruit & Spice Park describes this treasure of a park like this: ‘To familiarize someone who may have never visited, it's comparable to a zoo--a zoo for trees! The Fruit & Spice Park collects, breeds and preserves rare and important species from around the world for education and enjoyment. We also work with other botanical gardens to share knowledge and germplasm, to safeguard and preserve rare specimens.’
Unfortunately, the park and many of its trees suffered substantial damage from Hurricane Irma. Some of the damage is heartbreaking, including the majestic Baobabs, three very large Cannonball Trees (pictured above), and the Banana and Bamboo collections. There are over 250 downed and damaged trees, with 20 that are already dead. An initial assessment revealed that 60% of the tree canopy was lost. Time is critical to save the fallen trees with exposed roots.
This special park has some unique considerations and expenses. The trees damaged are not just regular trees, they are specimens of, in some cases, very rare collections. It's not possible to stop in at a local nursery or garden center for a replacement. Replacing them will be a time consuming and expensive process. Whether trying to save the existing trees or planting new ones, there is also special heavy equipment (ex: cranes) that is needed along with specialized personnel to properly handle some of the larger specimens.
So, you now have the what and the why, but are still in need of the who. Who am I, Peter Masi, president of Greenstar Landscaping?
In the early 90's I was into growing and learning about rare fruits and was introduced to Chris Rollins, who was the manager of the Fruit & Spice Park. Chris was extremely helpful, knowledgeable and was a great mentor. At the time I was growing and selling Florida Bunch Grapes, a variety of grape vines and certain varieties of fig trees. Chris allowed me to grow even more varieties of grapes by sharing dormant cuttings of the grape vines that were already at the Fruit & Spice Park and in return I donated grapevines and different varieties to the park as well. I also participated in many festivals, held by and at the park, selling grape vines and fruit trees. Chris was always there if I had a question. I have always looked back on those times fondly, and the park will forever hold a special place in my heart as a result.
In addition, one of the main reasons I'm doing what I'm doing now is because I can. You may ask ‘What does that mean, because I can?’ It means that I am in a position where I can finally give back to the community. I think it's important for all of us to give back to the community because in giving you get so much in return. My community has been good to me. I'm so lucky that God blessed me with these talents as I've always loved what I've been doing since I was a very young kid. I started out at eight years old pulling weeds for neighbors for $.50 an hour, in my early teens I built a bicycle trailer, put my lawn equipment on there and cut peoples grass. Over time I slowly built up the company and clientele that I have today.
I do wish I could personally be there lending a helpful hand, providing my knowledge and experience, however I have thousands of customers who are in need of my services. I have been providing hurricane relief to my clients for the past 3 weeks, removing trees from their houses, off their driveways and cars and helping their properties return to normal. As a landscaper of over 35 years, my mission is to help further beautify this tropical paradise, planting trees, with the ultimate goal being to leave this planet in better shape than we found it for the next generation. I feel very strongly about giving back to the community, in years past my company and I have volunteered time, resources and knowledge to different elementary schools but this will be the largest undertaking/challenge so far. I will be donating 100% of the proceeds of all my irrigation tune-ups for months to come and will be asking my clients to donate as well.
Fruit & Spice Park is one-of-a-kind, nowhere else in the world will you find this many varieties of trees in one place. I feel that it's very important for us to help to preserve this for the future generations and to inspire them to stand up in times of need.
As residents of Miami-Dade you may have amazing memories of this one of a kind park. So, when you make your contribution to help restore this unique gem, please take a moment to also post a short story, a favorite recollection, you have of the park.
Enjoying Mangofest 2017 with my Godchildren.
I'll end with some words of wisdom from the current manager of the Fruit & Spice Park, Jim Stribling: “These tropical species evolved to survive storms like this! Perhaps we should all take a lesson here, to bend with the wind, take things in our stride, get propped back up, or simply grow in a different direction!”
I couldn't agree more.
Greenstar Landscaping and Irrigation …..a small company with a big heart!
You + Miami-Dade Parks = Miami-Dade Strong