Kapok Tree Blocked

PB Kapok Tree 01-17-2015You know from yesterday’s manatee post that Road Warriorette Anne in in town for a few weeks to escape the cold in Texas. Saturday morning, she walked on the beach with Wife Lila, then in the afternoon she suggested we do one of our favorite bike rides – the Lake Trail in Palm Beach.

It’s about a 19.33 mile round trip from the house to the Palm Beach Inlet, and I haven’t been on a bike in so long I’m embarrassed, so I wasn’t disappointed when she said, “Let’s just go to the Kapok tree by the Flagler Museum and call it a day.” (That made it a 10.35 mile ride.)

The first thing we saw when we rounded the corner by the big tree was a gate over the walkway, some fresh fencing and a sign that said “NO PUBLIC ACCESS.”

Palm Beach doesn’t care much for us

Sarah, Matt and Malcolm Steinhoff with kapok tree in Palm Beach 11-09-2008Palm Beach isn’t fond of outsiders (who don’t have ostentatious wealth). They make it difficult to get access to the beach, and parking is expensive and closely monitored. Forget about parking on side streets. So far as I know, there are no public restrooms in town (although the guys and gals at the fire stations will give you a break if you ask).

Still, restricting access to a landmark like the Kapok tree, which was seen by Henry Morrison Flagler’s guests as they were pulled by it in Afromobiles at the beginning of the 20th Century, is a particular affront. It must have just happened, because everybody who came by, including parents who wanted to let their kids climb on it, was surprised and outraged.

Son Matt played in its huge roots when he was a little boy, and he brought HIS son, Malcolm, and Sarah there for a family portrait in 2008.

Photo gallery of the Kapok tree

It didn’t take long to come up with a representative sample of photographs showing people enjoying the tree. I’ve posed out-of-state bike tourists with it, and photographed scores of kids (and adults) marveling at the living landmark. There was almost always someone there when I’ve ridden by it.

Click on any photo to make it larger, then use your arrow keys to move through the gallery.

7 Replies to “Kapok Tree Blocked”

  1. One of the first pictures on my first trip to Florida was on that tree. I wonder if there is a good reason or just because they can.

  2. I walked that path for 16 years. I am outraged that it is now unavailable to the public. I no longer live in Fla but visit quite often. Call The Palm Beach Post to have them investigate.

  3. I too have a gazillion pictures at the kapok; I bring every friend here when they came to town. This last visit…I slowed as I noticed the new hedge and then then the sick feeling washed over me as I walked around and saw the gate and the sign. (Just an aside…if the tree is so important to them, why did they never bother to install a historical plaque?)

    I’m sure they claimed it’s for the safety of the tree, which is pure hog wash. That tree is a tough old gal, and personally I think she loves people playing on her, hiding in her and admiring her. They did it because they could and it’s selfish and mean.

    Yes, people did carve in it, but guess what…those people will still do that, they’ll just open the gate/jump the hedge and do it at night…the blockade may now actually increase this problem.

    Palm Beach is notorious for their “this is ours, you people keep out” behavior. Re: ever increasing parking meter fees and the removal of every free parking space on the side streets at the north end of the main beach–all changed last year to “resident parking permit” spots.

    IMHO a tree such as this belongs to all the people and should be treasured and loved, admired and TOUCHED. They have a lot of nerve, but it doesn’t surprise me in the least, I think they would put up three resident draw bridges if they thought they could get away with it.

    What does need to be curtailed is the “I own this path” mentality of the warrior cyclists who whip around the kapok corner as if they’re trying to harass people. “Excuse us for admiring the tree and blocking YOUR path!” Funny thing is…the fence now puts more pedestrians IN the path instead of on the grass and around the tree, so their “obstacles”, also known as PEOPLE have increased three-fold.

    I think this is a travesty…too many things in my lifetime have been “blocked off”, this amazing tree should not be one of them!

    Thank you for your post! Might I suggest you expand this…maybe a page where we can all post out pictures…and I feel a petition coming on! PM me if you’re interested, I’ll be happy to help!!

    Free the Kapok!!

  4. Visited the historic Kapok tree today on my morning walk. Easy public parking just a street over and plenty of free parking at the Society of the Four Arts. Also found a public restroom nearby. It’s still a beautiful tree to visit and I didn’t let the small sign or fence distract me from marveling at its size and beauty. It’s worth seeing and visiting and the Lake Trail is a great path for all ages.

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