Heartwood Preserve is a natural cemetery within a 41-acre conservation sanctuary located in the New Port Richey area. We conserve the natural habitats found here—longleaf pine flatwoods and cypress dome wetlands. Burials do not take place in the wetland areas. Every family who chooses the burial of a loved one at Heartwood is an integral part of protecting this special environment.
The History of a Land and Family… Intertwined
Heartwood Preserve is located on a wooded piece of land that was once a part of an historic cattle ranch, owned by the Starkey family since 1937. Jay B Starkey, Sr. and his partners cleared hundreds of acres of woods in the 1930s and 40s to create pastureland for cattle. However, they also left large sections of the 16,000 acres untouched with majestic stands of longleaf pines, cypress and oaks. Included within that pristine area are the 41 acres that now comprise the Heartwood Preserve.
The vision of Jay B Starkey, Sr. was that a sizable tract of Florida wilderness be kept free of development for future generations to enjoy. So beginning in the 1970s, Jay and his family transferred much of the land to the Southwest Florida Water Management District (SWFWMD) to become a permanent wilderness preserve. This land now forms the core of the 18,000-acre Starkey Wilderness Preserve.
The Jay B Starkey Wilderness Park, which makes up half of the Starkey Wilderness Preserve, borders Heartwood Preserve to the north. It is one of the most beloved and popular public wilderness parks in the Tampa Bay Region, with hiking, biking and equestrian trails, picnic and camping facilities, and an environmental education center set amid a vast and diverse mosaic of ecosystems. Heartwood Preserve’s location abutting the Starkey Wilderness Preserve helps to expand the many benefits of uninterrupted natural areas.
What’s in a name?
‘Heartwood’ refers to the core of the longleaf pine—the centerpiece species of the Preserve. When a longleaf pine is mature, the heart of the trunk is a dense, resin-saturated channel of dormant wood, running from the deep central taproot at its base, to the boughs of the branches high at the top of the tree. This rich orange-colored center is protected from fire by outer layers of softer, living wood and the characteristic chunky bark. Longleaf pines often remain standing for many years after they die, providing homes for a variety of wildlife. When a mature longleaf falls, this central core, or heartwood, makes excellent fire kindling. Other common names for it are lighter wood, fatwood, or pine kindling.
This old-growth wood is also highly valued as lumber. Unlike younger and faster-growing pine species, it is strong and dense along with being termite- and decay-resistant. Enduring and timeless, heartwood pine is among the most treasured of woods.
Heartwood is a great metaphor for the lasting impact people have after their lives have ended; the memory of loved ones becomes a core of lasting strength and resilience for the living.