In addition to the natural areas, Elisabeth Hoffman
is proud of the community gardens in Pearl City.
Photo by Jerry Lower
By Steve Plunkett
Elisabeth Hoffman is a Florida master naturalist, drives a Honda Civic hybrid, volunteers in Gumbo Limbo Nature Center’s butterfly garden and is one of the prime movers in a plan to restore Rutherford Park’s mangroves and canoe trails.
The longtime city resident also labors in the Pearl City Community Garden and attends numerous meetings of the City Council and the Greater Boca Raton Beach and Park District to voice her approval, or lack of it, on plans for the future.
“It’s a passion for me. I’m really all about community and building community,” Hoffman says.
But her calendar is slightly less packed this fall following her recent resignation as chairman of the city’s Environmental Advisory Board after 22 near-continuous years on the panel.
“Only credit me with 14 years,’’ she says of the certificate she received, explaining that she neglected to apply for reappointment after seven years, then was returned to the board when her replacement was a no-show for three months.
“I am just leaving the board, not my areas of caring concern, my foothold in the city or any of my other volunteer service,” she wrote in her resignation letter.
Hoffman said she’s proudest of her Environmental Advisory Board efforts to fine a builder for unauthorized construction near the Yamato Scrub, which the county and city purchased in 1994 and 1997, as well as guarding the beaches through the board’s review of projects on or near the coastal construction control line.
She worked to persuade voters to approve referendums in 1990 and 1999 to buy environmentally sensitive properties. And she helped craft ordinances to further protect the purchases.
Hoffman also spent nine years as a citizen member of the county’s Natural Areas Management Advisory Committee.
She left college early to care for an ailing mother, and then worked a succession of college library jobs at the University of Pennsylvania, Columbia and Princeton, where she met her future husband.
The library work had a lasting effect. ‘’I don’t use a Kindle because I want to read books and turn pages,’’ Hoffman says.
In 1969, the newlyweds moved to Boca Raton, where they would have three daughters and a son. Later she and her husband, a mathematics professor at Florida Atlantic University, divorced with her keeping their house on Northwest Fifth Avenue.
“One of the first things I did when I got here was get involved in buying [land for] Spanish River Park,” Hoffman recalls.
She has three gardens at her home, one “sort of a U-pick” for neighbors in the front yard and one for butterflies at the side.
Hoffman traces her affinity for the outdoors to a childhood in New Jersey woodlands near the Delaware Water Gap.
“Our house was like right at the edge of the glacier front rim,” she says. “My dad worked in New York City and knocked himself out weekends gardening and being out in the woods. And that’s what took for me.”
She held a variety of office manager and newspaper jobs over the years, as well as positions at the Nature Conservancy and with Otto Bettmann of Bettmann Archives fame. In 1988 she earned a degree in English at FAU.
Last month she completed a special master naturalist course on biodiversity at Rookery Bay in Collier County, complete with field trips to a panther preserve, Estero and the Pepper Ranch Preserve in Immokalee.
Even more recently she rescued a capsized canoe at Gumbo Limbo to turn into a planter at the Pearl City garden.
“It’s down there in all its orange glory,” she says. Ú