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Sable, the southern extremity of the Florida Peninsula and the most southern point of the mainland of the United States, and extends from that cape some 45 miles northerly along the Gulf of Mexico and some 50 miles easterly along the Bay of Florida.
The latitude of Cape Sable is 25° 07', while the latitude of the most southerly point of Texas is about 25° 50', so that Cape Sable is approximately 50 miles farther south than any other portion of the mainland of the United States. Some of the keys to the east, which would probably not be included in the park, lie as far south as latilude 24° 54', or some 15 miles south of Cape Sable. Some of the other Florida keys lie still farther south, beyond the proposed park area. Key West, for example, is 38 miles south and 45 miles west of Cape Šable. "Strange as it may seem, Cape Sable is 350 miles farther south than Cairo, Egypt. Cape Sable has three points, known as East Cape, Middle Cape, and Northwest Cape. These capes have several miles of shell beaches, bordered with coconut palms.
Northwardly the park area as planned extends about 10 or 15 miles north of the Tamiami Trail. Altogether there is a total of about 2,000 square miles involved, or nearly 1,300,000 acres. Possibly the best way to show the tentative boundaries for this proposed Tropic Everglades National Park is by a map (see p. 16), which is therefore attached as Exhibit A.
As tentatively considered, and as indicated on the preceding page map, the area is bounded on the north by line running approximately east and west; this northern boundary line to intersect at about right angles with the eastern boundary line, the eastern boundary line to extend about 15 miles north from the Tamiami Trail and about 12 miles south from the Tamiami Trail, continues with and forming part of the western boundary line of the southern drainage district area in Dade County. At right angles with the southern terminus of the above-described east boundary line and at about right angles to it, the boundary line is to extend about east again about 6 miles, running about east and west; this last indicated line to intersect at about right angles with another portion of the east boundary at its east and extending about 14 miles south to an intersection about 2 miles south of the township in which Florida City is located, here intersecting a line running about east at right angles to preceding north and south line and extending to the Atlantic Ocean.
The southern boundary of the proposed area to include the mainland shore line and all the islands and keys in the Bay of Florida, not including the keys on which the Florida East Coast Railroad and Key West Highway now have trackage or roadbed, other than Key Largo and near-by vicinity, as indicated on map, but including the islands of the Gulf of Mexico lying off the Florida coast line within the area indicated on the map, and not including Chocoloskee Island. From the indicated boundary on map and south of Chocoloskee Island, a straight line to be drawn to the north boundary line north of the Tamiami Trail, making an intersection with it 36 miles west from the northeast corner of the area. The great desirability of including enough of the key region that is located between the Atlantic Ocean and the Bay of Florida, Barnes and Card Sounds, so as to include some miles along the Atlantic coast shore line, including outlying waters, is apparent when one considers that the Gulf Stream flows northeastwardly close in shore at this point. In the near-by waters of the Atlantic are wonderful marine gardens and excellent fishing. On the keys included in this area are animal and plant life and physical formations confined to this general region and not found elsewhere in the park area. For that reason a portion of this key region has been included.
Naturally, the final boundary lines are difficult to show at this time, and even tentative boundary lines are difficult to determine without more intensive study on the ground. Private holdings and local conditions must be fully considered. The lines suggested, however, will give a very definite starting point for the park since they involve the maximum which might be secured and which upon study can be reduced to a desired essential minimum. It is probable that such adjustments can be made which will enable at least 80 per cent of the total area involved in the boundary lines to be considered a satisfactory minimum for the park.
There was some doubt as to whether or not any area north of the Tamiami Trail should be included. To do so would put a main traffic artery within the park area, and the trail seemed to be a logical northern boundary. However, both in order to prevent undesirable commercial development along the trail, and because there are some very scenic areas north of it which should be in. cluded, and also because of the possibilities of developing the wonderful bird life of the region for the enjoyment of those who motor along the Tamiami Trail, it has been considered desirable to extend the boundaries north as shown on the map.
The Royal Palm State Park should be included in the proposed park, and has been offered for that purpose. It will provide a very desirable feature.
GENERAL CHARACTERISTICS OF AREA
The general character of the area included in the proposed national park is low lying, probably no considerable part of the area having an elevation of more than 8 feet above the sea. The northeastern portion includes the true prairie type of everglades with great tracts of sawgrass, partly covered by water at certain seasons of the year, with hammocks, like islands, rising a few feet above the general level. Many of these hammocks are covered with dense tropical vegetation.
The keys to the southwest of Key West, such as the Dry Tortugas, are full of interest but are too remote from the main park area. Because of certain lack of continuity and difficulties of administering them as a part of the park area they should not be included.
The Ten Thousand Islands region lying mostly between Cape Romano and Lostmans River is most interesting. A large portion of this region has been included in the park project. Sometimes the name of Ten Thousand Islands is used to include all of the
islands south from Cape Romano, along the west coast, almost to Cape Sable. It is a common impression that 10,000 is too conservative an estimate for the number of islands, and they certainly seem unlimited, but a count from recent preliminary charts of the United States Coast and Geodetic Survey finds 4,600, disregarding those less than 50 feet in diameter. Most of these smaller islands are composed of a clump of mangrove trees, growing from the water with no soil showing except at low tide.
There are many shell mounds made by prehistoric races on the islands and mainland within the area, and other evidences of human habitation dating back to great antiquity.
The scenery in certain sections has a uniformity that may be said to approach monotony. Along the banks of the Chatham and other near-by rivers of this region are mangroves to the water's edge, and the intervening islands are all low and mangrove covered, these mangrove trees in places reaching to 100 feet high and forming vast forests. Anyone not familiar with the region would be hopelessly lost if taken a mile or so from the coast and left to find his way out. Should boating be developed by the National Park Service, if the park is taken over, ways and means of marking these channels must be developed for the benefit of the visitor. It is within this island's region that hydroplanes offer an excellent means of quickly viewing it, as well as most of the west coast of the proposed park area.
Motor boats would have their advantages for more leisurely touring and for fishing trips.
The area includes several distinct types of tropical and semitropical vegetation, such as the mangrove, cypress, and pine forests, vast expanses of saw-grass covered everglades, and luxuriant tropic inland hammock vegetation where a variety of palms, orchids, and ferns abound not found elsewhere in the United States. The vegetation, particularly that of the hammocks, is being irreparably destroyed by fire. Some species of plants, such as palms and orchids, are being exported for sale, and are in danger of extermination. There are numerous species of plant and animal life that occur nowhere else in the United States and some that occur nowhere else in the world.
The bird life of the area is abundant and includes many species, some of which are rare. Such birds as the roseate spoonbill, crane, the ibis, egret, and wild turkey have suffered greatly from illegal killing for meat and feathers, and they are much in need of protection in order to prevent their extermination. The flamingo formerly inhabited this region by the tens of thousands. The opportunity to see and to study the unusual bird life and the necessity of affording it adequate protection are among the strongest arguments for the setting aside of this area as a national park.
It is said that no other region in America is so abundantly supplied with fish and marine life as the tip of the Florida Peninsula. In the entire State there are 600 species of fish, and perhaps twothirds of that number are found in the area under consideration. Fishing is one of the attractions that draw many visitors to Florida, and this area offers its share of inducements, notably for tarpon and sailfish fishing.
Among the larger animals alligators and crocodiles are present, but their numbers have been reduced by killing. The manatee or sea cow is nearly extinct. Deer, bear, and panther are present, but also in reduced numbers.
Much of the area can be traversed only by boat and plane. Motor travel would be confined to specially constructed roads built up with dredged material. Travel on foot now meets obstacles that are prohibitive for the average visitor, though trails may be constructed without difficulty where desired. The Cape Sable region, as well as any coastal portion of the area, is subject to destructive hurricanes, which occur at intervals, sometimes many years apart. These storms usually come in the month of September. They may damage improvements. They are often accompanied by wind-blown floods, which for a time inundate all existing land areas within several miles of the sea, sometimes to a depth of several feet. These waters recede quickly, draining back into the Gulf.
For purposes of conservation, it is probable that a considerable part of the area proposed as a national park would be retained in its present state as a primitive wilderness, and no attempt would be made to “ develop” it for visitors. The construction of a road through the area, the use of the Cape Sable region, and such use of the waterways as is likely to be made of them will not seriously interfere with the objective of conservation. Great areas in the proposed park would be protected from trespassers and would serve as isolation tracts, unvisited and relatively inaccessible to visitors, where birds and animals would find a safe haven to live and multiply under natural conditions.
The area is of national and not merely local interest. The tropical-plant and animal life, the excellence of the fishing, and the bird life, which is remarkable both for the number of species and for the abundance of birds, evidences of prehistoric human occupation and the present Seminole Indian, are sufficient to give the area a national interest.
The region is absolutely different from any existing national park in its physical characteristics as well as in its subtropical and tropical-plant and animal life and climate. No one of the present national parks is tropical in character except the tree-fern forest in portions of Hawaii National Park.
The Acadia and Hawaii National Parks are near, or in part border, the seacoast, but none of the present parks has such an extensive coast line or equal opportunities for development of boating, establishment of an aquarium, and other features of a “marine park” such as this area has.
There is an urgent need for conserving the natural features of the area, and particularly the bird life.
Adequate recreational opportunities can be developed to offer an interesting trip to the average American citizen.
The region is highly valuable to scientists in many branches of natural history.
The opportunity for presenting informational and educational service that would appeal to average visitors is exceptionally good.
The area is ample in size for national park purposes.
Through the northern portion of the area is the Tamiami Trail, a good automobile road which was completed two years ago and crosses the State from east to west and connects Miami with Everglades, Fort Myers, and other points farther north on the west coast.
The town of Everglades is reached by automobile by a tributary road 3 miles in length, running south from the Tamiami Trail. Everglades is also reached by the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad.
The Royal Palm State Park is reached by a good automobile road. It is some 40 miles from Miami.
The Florida East Coast Railroad runs southwesterly from Miami to Homestead and Florida City, and thence to Key Largo and along the string of the Florida Keys to Key West, where the railroad terminates. The railroad is built on a concrete causeway from one key to another and is a noted engineering feat, financed by the late Mr. Flagler
The Key West Highway, a good automobile road, runs southerly from Miami, paralleling in a general way the Florida East Coast Railroad. It passes through Homestead and Florida City (the most southerly town on the mainland), then crosses to Key Largo and runs southwesterly along the Florida Keys to Lower Matecumbe Key, where the road at present terminates.
At the present time the area proposed for a national park is crossed by automobile roads at two places, namely, by the Tamiami Trail on the north, and by the Key West Highway to the east, and approached at the Royal Palm State Park on the east.
The only ways that the western and southern portions of the area can be visited at present are by boat and plane. "Boats with a draft of 5 feet can not only follow the coast line, but can enter several of the streams, land-locked bays, and waterways for a number of miles. Small crafts, including motor boats, canoes, and rowboats, can penetrate many miles inland from the coast and cruise around among the labyrinth of islands and interconnecting waterways. The town of Everglades, on the north, and Lower Matecumbe Key, on the south, at present offer bases accessible by rail and by automobile, from which motor-boat cruises may now be started.
A large part of the interior of the proposed park area is practically unexplored, though a few venturesome parties of naturalists and others have penetrated some parts of the area.
The season for visitors in Florida is during the winter months, principally from December to March, inclusive. If this area were established as a national park, its popular season would come at a time of year when many of the present national parks are closed by snow and winter conditions. Even if the area drew its visitors only from among the winter visitors to Florida, it would have considerable travel, and all States of the Union would be represented.