Bok Tower Gardens leaders remember Hurricane Charley

Swiped by storms in 2004, the park survived

LAKE WALES, Fla. - The current President of Bok Tower Gardens used to be the guy in charge of all the beautiful plants, flowers and foliage there. 

He remembers how devastating the 2004 storm season was for that park and the Lake Wales community.

The view today is truly tranquil from up here-- the highest point in Peninsular Florida

And for the Sheldons of Winter Park, a visit to the Bok Tower Gardens is all about appreciating nature.

"The gardens are really beautiful."

Ten years ago though, as the first of three storms ripped through here beauty wasn't the first thing that came to mind.

"The aftermath afterward was devastating," said David Price, who was the Horticulture Manager in 2004, and now serves as the President. 

Its a vivid memory for him.  "It seems like it's been a lot longer," he said, referring to today's ten-year anniversary. "And when I look at the pictures, it hits me pretty hard how bad it was.  I forget how bad it looked."

"We had six foot of debris here in the gardens," he said, showing me pictures of the damage.

"We had major trees down.  We lost over 230 trees-- Palm trees, Magnolia trees Oak trees."

In fact, if you come to the park today you can still see some of that damage from ten years ago.  For instance, a tree is partially pulled up out of its root system and continues to grow at a 45 degree angle.  It's "out of the wreckage revival" mirrors that of the town.

"It was really demoralizing for the community and it really took about a year and a half to two years for the community to clear up," said Price.

But, he says Lake Wales and the park are poised for brighter days ahead. 

I couldn't spy a blue tarp anywhere in town.  And Bok Tower Gardens is enjoying its best attendance since 2000.  And they're starting expansion projects, weather permitting.

"So, there's not a lot you can repair, other than the normal things of having your chain saws ready and your staff ready and bottled water and batteries and we're always ready for that."

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