Date of Award

Spring 2023

Thesis Type

Open Access

Degree Name

Honors Bachelor of Arts


Environmental Science


Dr. Bruce Stephenson

Committee Member

Dr. Barry Allen

Committee Member

Dr. Susan Libby


Historically, the marshes and swamps of Central Florida have been depicted as a paradise in artwork by naturalists such as William Bartram and Luminist landscape painters like Martin Johnson Heade. Today, the image of Florida’s tourism centers around theme parks and beaches. However, state parks in Central Florida preserve and restore unique ecosystems. This thesis analyzes the effectiveness of Wekiwa Springs State Park and Blue Spring State Park’s management practices for maintaining the Luminist and naturalist aesthetics. Previous research has identified the role of landscape paintings, particularly from the Hudson River School and the American West, in establishing America’s appreciation for landscape. Over the last century, scientific research in the field of ecology and public awareness of environmental issues has led to the creation of Florida’s current state park system, which prioritizes ecological management as opposed to public recreation. Understanding and identifying natural beauty in the context of a rapidly growing state population is crucial for utilizing public support to preserve more natural land threatened by development. This thesis analyzes American Romantic landscape paintings which contributed to the national appreciation for landscapes and inspired Florida Luminist painters. Influential Luminist paintings are then identified. Using management plans from the early state park system, the foundational attitudes for the first state parks are understood. Management plans from Wekiwa Spring State Park, Blue Spring State Park, and the Wekiva Wild and Scenic River System are also used to identify goals, priorities, and actions taken to preserve ecological integrity. Finally, photographs taken in both state parks are compared to William Bartram’s Travels and Luminist paintings. Wekiwa Springs State Park was used for tourism up until the 1930s. Later, it was used for logging and sport hunting until it was acquired by the state in 1969. Today, photos taken show that active restoration of sandhill and scrub habitat preserve Bartram’s fascination with the biota of Central Florida, while the Luminist aesthetic is present at water bodies like Lake Prevatt. Blue Spring State Park was historically a landing site for steamboats carrying tourists and cargo to and from Orange City. With a view directly on the St. Johns River, the preservation of the park’s floodplain forests offers spectacular views of the Luminist aesthetic at sunset. With more land in Central Florida being developed to accommodate new residents, incorporating Luminist and naturalist artistry into development projects may increase an appreciation for Florida’s natural beauty. As ecological integrity best preserves Luminist and naturalist aesthetics, landscaping elements that mimic natural systems reduce discontinuity between natural lands and developments in addition to preserving Florida’s natural beauty.

Rights Holder

Jeremy Laplanche