When we first visited Lantana Scrub Natural Area way back in 2014, the impression we got was a work in progress. It still is, but it's much closer to a "finished" product than was back in the day. At the time, there was no official entrance, no parking, no trails, no informational kiosks, not even so much as an official website. We had to hop the fence (on the advice of a county employee who reconned that since there were no "no trespassing" signs the public could feel free to explore). We walked the property using the network of maintence roads.
Fast forward to late 2021 and much is still the same. And much has changed. There is a entrance and there are trails. There is officially designated parking at the neighboring county health department complex. Finishing touches, like interpretive signs and a kiosk had yet to be installed and an official opening was expected some time in early 2022.
Officially open or not, Lantana Natural Area is worth the visit. It is postage stamp small at a mere 32.5 acres, but every bit of it is precious land, a remnant of the Atlantic coastal scrub that once stretched from Miami-Dade County to St. Augustine. Almost all of it is gone, particularly in the southern end of the range. It's gone entirely from Miami-Dade and almost entirely from Broward. Lantana Scrub managed to avoid the developer's bulldozer because it previously was in state hands, part of the A.G. Holley State Hospital complex. It had been abused in numerous ways — roads cut through it, trees clear cut, used as a homeless encampment and as a dump for construction spoils — but always, with time, recovered to something approaching its natural state.
The environmental value of Lantana Scrub was identified as far back as 1989 when Palm Beach County developed a list of properties to be bought with the proceeds of a bond issue. It was on the list of properties to be bought in 1991 after voters approved the bond issue, a deal between the county and state could not be worked out. In 2004, the state Department of Health and Lantana town officials developed a master plan for the A.G. Holley property, which included a nature preserve to be managed by Palm Beach County. In 2012, those plans became reality when Palm Beach County signed a lease with the state.
Lantana Scrub Natural Area contains only two types of habitat, scrub and scrubby flatwoods, but both area rare. When we first visited the Lantana Scrub Natural Area in late March 2014, there was a profusion of pawpaw in bloom throughout the site. There was also fetterbush, staggerbush, hog plum, tarflower, scrub oaks of various stripes, false rosemary, largeflowered rosemary, sand pines, saw palmetto, greenbrier and love vine throughout the site. We've seen the rare Curtiss's milkweed growing in the scrub, masses of yellow buttons, powderpuff lichen and sand spike moss. In the trees, we've spotted blue jays, kestrels, ospreys, mockingbirds and gray catbirds.
There are no bathrooms or drinking water. Lantana Scrub Natural Area is open sunrise to sunset, seven days a week throughout the year.