Gate House Restoration and Education Center Begins with First Open House
March 20, 2004
On March 20, 2004,as a part of the Heritage Week celebration, St. John's Historic Cemetery had an "historic", first open-house in the St. John's Gate House with the beginnings of a small theater (and showings of the excellent WSRE-TV/ John Appleyard film), Museum and Educational Center.
On Saturday afternoons, from 2:00 to 4:00 PM, on March 27th and on April 3rd Friends of St. John's again had an Open House. In addition to the above film showings in the Gate House, there was an exhibit of rare plants in St. John's Historic Cemetery by members of the Florida Native Plant Society (FNPS).
James Burkhalter, a leading Botanist in this area and 15 other volunteers from the FNPS spent most of Saturday, March 20th, actually counting the tiny( several inches) winter grapefern plants. They use over 200 small flags to separate segments of the area then count each plant under study in the sub area. This year they counted 1,702 of the plants, one of the rarest in Florida and in the entire world, according to James Burkhalter. The count this year was down slightly from last year's count of 1,817, perhaps, statistically insignificant. Burkhalter's findings about the plant in St. John's in 2001 brought visits from out-of-town botanists and recognition by the American Fern Society. Thus, the Pensacola News Journal headline stated Fern Makes Pensacola a Tad More Famous!
Burkhalter pointed out that cemeteries should not be using herbicides or weed killers; that mowing should be sufficient. The native habitat of many plants have been altered by building and general cultivation; thus, certain native plants seek refuge in places like cemeteries.