Gateway to the Everglades - An Update
A lot has happened in those years: restroom renovations, improvements in energy efficiency, new accessibility ramps, repaired decks and roofing in picnic areas, a renovated fishing pier, parking lot improvements, new fencing around the gator pit and the entrance to Science Eye, and, more recently, a new roof on the main building, invasive plant eradication, installation of trees as part of a mitigation project, and general grounds cleanup. Through it all, the park stayed open 24/7, although the campground remains temporarily closed until necessary renovations can be completed.
The improvements are paying off: The park was named one of the top three attractions in the state at the end of 2013 by USA TODAY Travel and its 10Best.com Website. Attendance and revenue are up, and the park recently hosted a bass fishing tournament in which more than a hundred boats participated.
The 29 acres that now make up the park were deeded to Broward County in 1964 by Davie Farm Lands, with the stipulation that the sole use of the land be for “public recreation purposes.” The following year the county entered a long-term agreement to lease the site to FWC. In succeeding years FWC sublet the park’s concession services to private vendors, including, since 1992, Bridges Everglades LLC, which remains the primary concessionaire.
The park sits at the western terminus of Griffin Road, with the portion of Broward County that is developed to the east and the Everglades to the west. Large-capacity airboats with covered compartments take visitors on ‘Glades tours, with experienced guides providing information on the history and the flora and fauna of this unique ecosystem. Each approximately one-hour airboat expedition concludes back at the park with an alligator show. (TV’s Gator Boys uses the park as a base.)
Boaters are welcome to bring and launch their own boats or to rent 14-foot johnboats, which are available from sunrise to sundown for fishing or Everglades sightseeing. Licensed fishers can fish from the park’s docks as well. With 36-hour advance notice, visitors can arrange for a professionally guided fishing trip that includes the boat, rods, and artificial bait.
Among the park’s other amenities are a deli/food concession with takeout window (picnic tables are nearby), and a general store stocked with prepackaged snack foods, sodas, beer, sunglasses, sunscreen, insect repellent, boating gear, ice, and other items. Bait and tackle and fishing and game licenses are also for sale there, as well as tickets for airboat rides. A gift/souvenir shop adjacent to the general store offers such merchandise as T-shirts, jewelry, and gator-related novelty items.
Technology meets nature when the first eNaturalist-led hike is held from 9 a.m. to noon on Saturday, June 7 at Tall Cypress Natural Area
in Coral Springs. A Parks naturalist will be available at this kickoff event to explain to participants how the self-guided hikes run.
It works this way: Signs posted along the nearly 2,100-foot boardwalk through this 66-acre preserve will feature QR (quick response) codes that provide enhanced information on the nature you’re experiencing, including relevant videos. Just use your cell phone or tablet (and an application that can be downloaded for free) to scan the codes. The visually impaired can also participate, as Braille signs will provide Web addresses that lead to audio descripons of the natural area’s flora and fauna. Future sites for this program currently include Hillsboro Pineland
This hike is just one part of our new eNaturalist Program, which will ultimately include Web pages and other resources. For more information, call North Broward Natural Areas at 954-357-5113.
Looking to get away without going far away? For a fun, affordable “staycation” close to home, look no farther than our three regional parks with summer camping specials: Easterlin Park in Oakland Park and Quiet Waters Park in Deerfield Beach, where the specials start June 1, and T.Y. (Topeekeegee Yugnee) Park in Hollywood, which began its special on May 1.
The Family Fun Package offers a two-night stay (Fridays and Saturdays only) for four campers for $55; two more campers can be added at $3 each per night. The Escape Special, which runs from Sundays through Thursdays, offers a one-night stay for four campers for $20 per site per night; two additional campers can join you for $3 each per night. These two specials are available at both Easterlin and Quiet Waters through September 30. Campers at Quiet Waters also receive special rates on admission to the Splash Adventure water park, boat rentals at Lakeview Marina, bike rentals and merchandise at Bike America, and group lessons at Ski Rixen USA cable water-skiing.
At T.Y. Park through September 1, the Find Your Getaway package offers campsites for $30 per site per night, which includes all-day admission for four registered campers to the park’s Castaway Island water park (days of operation vary).
For additional information, call Easterlin at 954-357-5190, Quiet Waters at 954-357-5100, or T.Y. at 954-357-8811. Florida sales tax applies to all the above rates.
This month you have half a dozen chances to find out more about what’s going on in the South Florida night sky. From roughly dusk to midnight on Saturdays, June 7, 14, 21, and 28, weather permitting, the South Florida Amateur Astronomers Association (SFAAA) opens the Fox Observatory at Markham Park & Target Range in Sunrise.
This nonprofit organization, which dates back to the mid-1960s, staffs the Fox and brings along its own telescopic equipment as well. Group members assist the public in how to use the gear. The SFAAA also meets at the Fox at 7:30 p.m. on the first Thursday, which this month falls on June 5. Markham Park is accessible via Broward County Transit Route #23.
The SFAAA also hosts popular quarterly gatherings called An Evening With the Stars at Fern Forest Nature Center in Coconut Creek. This quarter the event is on Friday, June , starting at 7 p.m. For more information, call the nature center at 954-357-5198. Fern Forest is accessible via Broward County Transit Routes #31 and #42.
Another reminder: Kids 9 through 16 can learn how to saddle up at the annual Summer Horse Camp at Tradewinds Park & Stables in Coconut Creek. The program starts on June 9 and ends on August 14, and runs from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays.
Riding instruction (weather permitting) and many other activities are featured. For the second year the camp is offered in one-day, two-day, and four-day sessions. Fees range from $75 to $400. Space is limited and preregistration is required. Fees must be paid and a release and waiver of liability signed at registration.
Eye patches, peg legs, and hand hooks are optional when Quiet Waters Park in Deerfield Beach hosts Splash Ahoy! this month on Fridays, June 13 and 27. Fun is mandatory, however, thanks to such activities as a bounce house, games, a movie, and splash time in the park’s Splash Adventure water playground. The events run from 6 to 10 p.m. and cost $6 (plus sales tax) per person. Refreshments will also be available for purchase. Space is limited, and advance ticket purchase is required by calling the park at 954-357-5100. Quiet Waters is accessible via Broward County Transit Route #14. Future dates in this ongoing program are Fridays, July 11 and 25 and August 8.
Every summer Fern Forest Nature Center in Coconut Creek offers weeklong summer day camps for ages 8 to 11. This year Nature Detectives will run from 9 a.m. to noon on weekdays, June 23-27 and August 4-8. Each day focuses on a different theme, with participants exploring the nature center’s habitats through hands-on experiences, crafts, and other activities.
The fee is $75 per camper for the week, and preregistration is required. For more information, call Fern Forest at 954-357-5198. The nature center is accessible via Broward County Transit Routes #31 and #42.
A love of science doesn’t equal geekdom, as your kids will learn if you sign them up for Science Eye Safari Camp at Tree Tops Park in Davie. Campers are immersed in the roles of a scientist making observations, conducting experiments, engaging in field studies, and more. By participating in fun, interactive, hands-on projects, they’ll learn to explore the world around them to gain new insights and become aware of why it’s important to take care of the environment. Field trips are included on Fridays.
Each day is a new adventure at this day camp for ages 7 to 12, which runs from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily the weeks of June 16-20, June 23-27, July 7-11, July 14-18, and August 4-8. The fee is $300 per child per week, with after-care from 4 to 5 p.m. available for an additional fee.
|Quote of the
"If you have made mistakes, even serious ones, there is always another chance for you. What we call failure is not the falling down but the staying down." - American actress Mary Pickford (1893-1979)