Big Blue Forest Preserve

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 Big Blue Preserve



The Big Blue Forest Preserve is an undeveloped tract of land approximately ninety-two acres in size located in the Village of Wellington. It contains wetlands and many old-growth cypress trees, some more than 300 years old.

The story of Big Blue’s “preserve” designation dates back to the 1970’s, when Arthur W. “Bink” Glisson first discovered its massive ferns and abundant wildlife. “Bink” Glisson was the site manager for the C. Oliver Wellington’s family, who owned all the property that later bore his name. Glisson came upon the Big Blue cypress forest while working the land in 1971. A year later, in 1973, the Palm Beach County Commission gave approval for the first planned development known as Wellington. Big Blue was designated a preserve as part of Wellington's 1972 master plan. This provision granted developers the right to build in the area as long as they maintained and enhanced Big Blue. Wellington’s early developers built a berm around the cypress forest and pumped in water to restore the natural hydrology that canal digging and development had altered.

Glisson also built trails through Big Blue to make passage possible. He named one of these the Cathedral Trail because its giant ferns formed a dome around it. Glisson led expeditions on horseback through the cypress stand. He also invited archaeologists to study an Indian mound he found in the forest. One archaeologist uncovered ancient artifacts and concluded the area was a rest stop for Indians who traveled south from Jupiter Inlet by canoe to the Loxahatchee Slough. According to experts, these Indians camped in Big Blue before heading to the Everglades.

Glisson named the forest for the blue haze that rises from the treetops of the mammoth cypress trees. And no doubt, Big Blue Trace takes its name from the forest as well. In the earliest plans for the Wellington development, Big Blue Trace would have continued its path south, bringing vehicles close to the cypress forest. The development of Palm Beach Polo and Country Club, however, not only altered the traffic patterns, but also provided a protective haven for the Big Blue Forest and adjacent Indian mounds. Palm Beach Polo and Country Club, through its sister company, purchased the land in 1993. The zoning designation of the land in the Wellington PUD, which includes Big Blue, is A/RSE PUD, which stands for Agricultural/Residential subject to a Special Exception for a Planned Unit Development. The original 1972 Wellington PUD Master Plan designated Big Blue as OS-R, which means Open Space-Recreation. This designation calls for the preservation and maintenance of Big Blue.