Our journey to Everglades National Park began on Saturday, April 11 at Lake Ashton, the retirement community my parents were renting a house in for March and April. Sean and I had flown from Chicago after work on Thursday. Friday evening we’d spent packing for the Everglades and preparing a picnic lunch for Saturday afternoon.
Our first destination was Big Cypress National Preserve, which protects 729,000 acres of the northwestern section of the Everglades ecosystem. Because of the habitat diversity in the Preserve, it is critical for the endangered Florida Panther. Some 30-40 panthers live in the Preserve, compared with 8-10 in Everglades National Park. Although it was part of the original proposal for the National Park, the Big Cypress Swamp was ultimately not included in the Park when it was established in 1947. Two major east-west thoroughfares bisect the Preserve, I-75 (nicknamed Alligator Alley) and US 41 Tamiami Trail.
In the decade after Everglades National Park was established, developers from booming Miami proposed and began building the world’s largest jetport on Tamiami Trail near the center of the swamp. The developers had not anticipated the evolution in public understanding of the importance of protecting open space, wildlife, and water in south Florida. The outcry from conservationists and the general public was intense, leading to the cancellation of the jetport and the creation of the nation’s first National Preserve.Continue reading