Cedar Lakes Woods & Gardens was founded by Dr. Raymond Webber and opened for public enjoyment in January of 2014. The creation of the gardens began over 32 years ago when Ray discovered the 100+ year old retired lime rock quarry in 1991. (Over one hundred years ago, miners were harvesting lime rock from the property to create the foundation of Highway 27). In 1991, Ray found that the property had been abandoned long ago, and it was a polluted swamp. He purchased the property for his own private use, initially intending to use the quarry as a giant fishing pond. He dug out what was left behind, including old mining remnants, and began to transform the old swampy quarry.
Rock by rock, each rolled in by wheelbarrows and strategically placed by human hands, the walkways and walls of the gardens were created. With a small team of workers, he created different islands throughout the quarry, concrete walkways, separate pools, waterfalls, pavilions, gazebos, and bridges made of Brazilian walnut. With the structures now intact, Ray assumed gardening as his hobby to add greenery to his creation. He discovered that he was just as enthusiastic for gardening as he was for fishing, and now Ray is responsible for one of the most unique botanical creations you will ever see.
In 2014, Ray created the 501(c)(3) non-profit Cedar Lakes Woods and Gardens, Inc. He donated the entire 20-acre botanical garden to the non-profit and opened it to the public. He then donated the entire 64-acre surrounding woodlands to Conservation Florida in order to keep them protected in the future. While the property has strayed far from its original purpose, Ray is so happy to see the property growing and being enjoyed by so many people.
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 semitropical plants to flourish year-round. Birds of prey, owls, doves, numerous songbirds, butterflies, turtles, frogs, and other wildlife may be encountered along the trail. Cedar Lakes Woods & Gardens is also home to domesticated animal friends including many cats, 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.
There are many benches and picnic tables throughout the trails to allow visitors to sit and enjoy the spectacular views. We also suggest bringing a picnic lunch to snack on while enjoying these views. Today, thanks to the help of staff members and Ray's dedication to his artistic dream, the garden continues to grow with the addition of new garden displays, scenic features, and expansion of education programs. You may also wander through our surrounding woods and enjoy the Oaks, Cedars, Pines, Pecans, Hickories, and Dogwoods in an adjacent 64-acre nature conservation easement maintained by "Conservation Florida."
Dr. Raymond T. Webber is now 80 years old. He served in the Army for 8 years, was then called up for Desert Shield and Storm in 1990 and 1991 while serving in the reserves. Ray completed his M.S. degree upon receiving his Endodontic certification in 1974, and practiced until his retirement in 2014. He taught at the University of Florida from 1977 to 1982, and even wrote chapters of dental textbooks. He lectured nationally and internationally for 14 years. In his personal time, he enjoys traveling and fishing, and of course gardening.
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