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 descriptions 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.
Every quarter the South Florida Amateur Astronomers Association (SFAAA) gets together at Fern Forest Nature Center in Coconut Creek to discuss all things astronomical.
The free program is called An Evening With the Stars, and the latest installment starts at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, June 20. Speakers will cover basic telescope techniques and general astronomy information. For more details, call Fern Forest at 954-357-5198. The nature center is accessible via Broward County Transit Routes #31 and #42.
The SFAAA also opens the Fox Observatory at Markham Park & Target Range in Sunrise every Saturday evening, weather permitting, from dusk to midnight. For more information, call 954-384-0442 or email info@SFAAA.com.
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.
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.
For more information, call 954-680-7977, email email@example.com, or visit scienceeye.com.
Extension Education will hold a new session of the Florida Master Naturalist Environmental Interpretation Course. The course consists of 40 contact hours of instruction and will be held at Plantation Heritage Park on various days from June 16 through June 28. The course fee is $150 and preregistration and prepayment are required.
To preregister, visit www.masternaturalist.ifas.ufl.edu. For more on this course or other Florida Master Naturalist programs call Extension Education at 954-357-5270.
It’s no secret that Nature Tots has been teaching tykes to appreciate the great outdoors for years. The program was the brainchild of a park naturalist in 2003.
The one-hour programs, for ages 2 to 4 accompanied by an adult, focus on a different theme each month, with each site’s naturalist free to embellish on it according to his/her style. A typical program might start with stories, songs, or arts and crafts and end with a short nature walk.
This month’s events will be on June 12 at Fern Forest Nature Center in Coconut Creek, on June 17 at West Lake Park in Hollywood, and on June 26 at Secret Woods Nature Center in Dania Beach.
The monthly program runs from 10 to 11 a.m. The fee is $5 per child, and preregistration is required. Programs are on the second Thursday at Fern Forest, the third Tuesday at West Lake Park, and on the fourth Thursday at Secret Woods Nature Center.
Long Key Natural Area and Nature Center also hosts Preschool Play ‘n’ Learn on June 12 from 10 to 11 a.m. This program, open to participants ages 3 to 5, may include games, hands-on activities, crafts, storytelling, songs, and a nature walk or animal encounter. This month’s theme is “Under the Sea.” Long Key also holds Knee-High Naturalist events on a monthly basis. This month's event, to be held on June 25 from 10 to 11 a.m. for children ages 3 to 5, will have the theme of "Insect Inspection." The fee for both of these programs is $5 per child and preregistration is required.
For more information on a program or to preregister, call Fern Forest at 954-357-5198, West Lake at 954-357-5161, Secret Woods at 954-357-8884, or Long Key at 954-357-8797. Fern Forest is accessible via Broward County Transit Routes #31 and #42. West Lake is accessible via Route #12. Secret Woods is accessible via Route #6.
For years Fern Forest Nature Center in Coconut Creek has been stimulating young minds with Nature Detectives, a weeklong summer day camp for ages 8 to 11. This summer the popular program has sessions running from 9 a.m. to noon daily June 23-27 and August 4-8. Each day will focus on a different theme, as participants explore 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.
Choose from a variety of nature-related hikes and walks this month:
- Fri., June 13, 8 p.m. – Full Moon Hike – Long Key Natural Area & Nature Center (954-357-8797) – $5/person
- Sat., June 14, 7 p.m. – Nature at Night Hike – Deerfield Island Park (954-357-5100) – $5/person
- Sat., June 21, 11 a.m. – Mad About Mud Hike – Anne Kolb Nature Center (954-357-5161) – $3/person
- Sat., June 21, 6:30 p.m. – Summer Solstice Hike – Long Key Natural Area & Nature Center (954-357-8797) – $10/person
- Sun., June 29, 10 a.m. – Guided Nature Hike – Long Key Natural Area & Nature Center (954-357-8797) – Free
YouTube Spotlight - New Everglades Holiday Park Commercial
Broward County Parks has its own YouTube Channel at www.YouTube.com/BrowardCountyParks. Experience the "Gateway to the Everglades" at Everglades Holiday Park. Watch our new commercial and see what could be waiting for you next time you visit.
SWIM Central is the Broward County Commission's primary resource and referral service for available swim programs in cooperation with various cities and nonprofit organizations. Call 954-357-SWIM (7946).