This is chapter 6 from the e book “10 Florida Great Walks Around Gainesville and Ocala” by Lucy Beebe Tobias
6. Sholom Park, Ocala
Imagine world leaders sitting down and listening with respect to what each one is saying. Imagine them agreeing to work for a peace that comes from justice. Ah, don’t give up hope. It could happen. Sidney Colen, the patriarch of the Colen family that developed On Top of the World, believed in the possibility.
Imagine! That is the key word behind Sholom Park in Ocala. Sidney set aside the land, some 50 acres of high ground, long before houses were built nearby. Horticulturist Steve Curl spent three years working with Sidney designing and constructing a peace and meditation park that opened to the public in 2004.
If world leaders need a place to come discuss world peace, here it is. Sidney hoped they would come. At the very least, he hoped the peaceful environment would change the world one person at a time. He said: “Let all who enter enjoy nature in the spirit of human enhancement. Let this park be the seed that grows and flowers. Peace is the world’s goal.”
Sidney has passed away. The world leaders have yet to arrive. Meanwhile, this quiet, thoughtfully designed park attracts visitors who come to rejuvenate mind, body and spirit – and perhaps peace will follow.
On any given day, power walkers pump away along the meandering paved paths through a savannah, a forest, a labyrinth, past a pond, curving around olive trees. Benches, especially those facing the sun, are popular sitting places. So is the covered pavilion at the pond. A great spot to bring a book, listen to the water falling.
Other walkers are leisurely, taking in the rose garden, the butterfly garden, the ginger garden, snapping pictures along the way. On the labyrinth path, signs suggest meditation thoughts.
If all the meandering paths were put together, the total walk is around two miles. But the views along the way, the chances for looking deeply, these have their own resonance.
A recent addition is the Olive Tree Promenade, a walkway with 18 olive trees on either side for a total of 36 trees, an important number in Jewish culture. Olive trees have lovely silver grey leaves. Seeing this promenade is inspiring, perhaps olive trees will thrive in your garden! But there is no hurry, the prime objective at Sholom is to slow down, de-stress and consider the fullness of the moment.
Take a life lesson in the power of focus from the blue heron often seen at the pond, staring intently into the water, hoping koi will appear. Nearby a family poses for a photo shoot. The blue heron does not look up. A family arrives and the children get koi food. Laughing, they throw it into the pond. The heron does not look up, intently staring right where the food was thrown, surely a fish will show.
Ah, focus. Where shall we focus our energy?
Plein aire painters have that same kind of focus. Often found with their easels set up near the pond, the artists see trees, sky, water and foliage in many different ways. Often they sit and stare intently, rather like the great blue heron.
By the way, Sholom Park is Chapter 27 in my book 50 Great Walks in Florida published by University Press of Florida.
What: Sholom Park
Where: 6840 SW 80th Avenue, Ocala, FL 34481
Phone: (352) 854-7435
Hours: Summer (March 31-Oct.14) 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., winter (Oct. 15-April 1) 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
GPS: Latitude: 29.1155950
Surface: All paths are paved.
Distance: Two miles if walking all the park areas.
Handicapped Accessible: Yes
Advice: Pick up a free brochure showing all park areas, then go exploring. Bring a brown bag lunch, a sketchbook or something you’ve wanted to read. Take off your watch. Turn off your cell phone. Be still. Connect with nature.
Spend a few morning hours at Sholom Park. Then if you didn’t bring a brown bag lunch, consider going to Mimi’s on State Road 200 and follow that with a visit to the nearby Barnes & Noble bookstore.
Ross Prairie State Forest with 3,527 acres. Located off State Road 200. The 2.3-mile Holly Hammock Trail (expect to see holly trees) goes through hammocks and near depression marshes.
Own a Nook? Good news. “10 Florida Great Walks Around Gainesville and Ocala” , the e book by Lucy Beebe Tobias that takes you on new adventures in places you only thought you knew, is now available for Nook here at Barnes & Noble
And the e book is also available on Kindle here on Amazon