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It is proposed to establish a Pan American Highway which would include the existing highway down the Florida Peninsula and along the keys. The present road ends at Lower Matecumbe Key, but it is proposed to extend it to Key West, thence by ferry to Cuba, thence by road across Cuba, thence by ferry to Yucatan and thence by road to South America. If this project materializes, travel through southern Florida would be increased, and the proposed park area would be a feature of the Pan American Highway.
The nearest present or prospective national park is the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina and Tennessee, which is distant about 700 miles. The nearest national monuments are Fort Marion and Fort Matanzas near St. Augustine and the proposed De Soto National Monument near St. Petersburg.
LAND OWNERSHIP AND VALUES
Very few data are available as to the status of land ownership and a great deal more research work will have to be done than has been possible so far. Inasmuch as the same procedure will have to be followed in this instance as was the case in the acquisition of the lands for the Great Smoky Mountains, the Shenandoah, and the Mammoth Cave National Parks, the land will have to be acquired by the State of Florida and tendered to the United States without cost. The question of land ownership and its acquisition for park purposes is therefore one for the State of Florida rather than the United States to work out.
From the best information available it is found that the State of Florida owns 20 to 25 per cent of the area and the bulk of the area outside of State holdings is largely in the hands of a few individuals and corporations. A very few small areas have been subdivided and sold. The Tropic Everglades Park Association, an organization sponsored by and maintained in the State of Florida to promote this project, estimates that the economic value of the entire area proposed for park inclusion is very small.
Several attempts have been made to utilize the Everglades and the tip of the peninsula for agricultural and other commercial purposes, but in most cases the experiments have failed, and most of the area is at present a primitive wilderness. It is available for use as a national park and has but little value for other purposes. With increasing population of the United States and further development of agriculture and industry, conditions may change, and it is felt that the present time is advantageous to set aside the area while it is still in its natural condition.
This information has been secured from the Tropic Everglades Park Association, and is the only information now available on this subject. For this reason it is believed that the expense of securing further information along this line is unnecessary for consideration of the project by Congress.
If the area proposed for inclusion equals 1,300,000 acres, and if the State of Florida is willing, without cost, to turn over its holdjugs, arvounting to about 25 per cent, or about 325,000 acres, there would remain approximately 1,000,000 acres to be acquired. The great bulk of the land that it is expected ultimately will be selected for the park, in the opinion of the official investigators, has little or no commercial value and can not advantageously be used for any other than park purposes. Its primary value would lie in the opportunities offered for conservation of the tropical flora and the wild life-particularly the endless varieties of birds and fishes and their enjoyment throughout the ages. It does not seem possible that the land needed on an average would cost more than $1 per acre, so that it would take about $1,000,000 to acquire it. Of course, this would have to be acquired by the State of Florida without expense to the United States, so that the question of the acquisition price would appear to be one not pertinent to any enabling legislation that would be passed by Congress to establish the park.
There seems to be some question as to whether or not there is a specific reservation for the Seminole Indians within the abovedescribed area and this will have to be further investigated locally. None of the Federally owned Seminole Reservation area is within the limits of the proposed park area.
As Exhibit B (see p. 18), I am attaching copy of an act passed by the Legislature of Florida, dated May 25, 1929, providing for the acquisition of park lands and property of the counties of Dade, Monroe, and Collier for the purpose of conveying the same to the United States of America to be used as a national park.
It will be noticed from this that after providing for means of acquiring the land for this park, if authorized by the Secretary of the Interior, the Tropic Everglades National Park Commission, created by said act, is authorized to acquire the land for the park when it shall have been made to appear to said commission “(a) That the Secretary of the Interior has, in pursuance to an act of Congress, designated the area to be acquired within Dade, Monroe, and Collier Counties for general development for national park purposes; (b) that adequate financial provision has been made by or on behalf of the said commission for the purchase of said designated area," and that the act of May 25, 1929, shall take effect at the time the Secretary of the Interior is authorized to accept the area designated for such Tropic Everglades National Park.
It is understood that if Congress authorizes the establishment of a national park in the Everglades it would not be taken over for Government administration and operation until all of the land within the boundaries, as established, had been deeded to the United States without cost. The ceding of jurisdiction by the State to the Federal Government should invariably precede the final acceptance of a national park.
It appears pertinent at this point to dwell upon the place this tropical national park, when and if established, would occupy in the field of public recreational opportunities in the area east of the Mississippi. The only existing national park in the East is the Acadia National Park in Maine, the State farthermost away on the Atlantic seaboard from this Everglades project. Plans are rapidly taking shape for the establishment of the. Shenandoah National Park of 490 square miles in Virginia, and the Mammoth Cave National Park of over 70 square miles in Kentucky promises to be a reality within the coming two years. North Carolina and Tennessee are hard at work in acquiring over 640 square miles to comprise the magnificent Great Smoky Mountain National Park, lying within the mountain regions straddling the boundary line between those States. These three national parks are being acquired by the several States, under authority of Congress for their establishment, at an expense of contributed funds that will exceed $15,000,000; in other words, acquired by the several States involved through funds donated and made available by direct State appropriation, these three magnificent national park areas will soon be Federal property for purposes of conservation and public recreational and educational use. Congressional authorizations to establish the George Washington Birthplace National Monument at Wakefield, Va., and the Colonial National Monument, comprising Yorktown, Jamestown, and Williamsburg, will add two more objectives of outstanding historic significance or national scope to the Federal areas having tremendous appeal for our people. Several historic national monuments now under jurisdiction of the War Department are available for similar public use in North Carolina, Georgia, and Florida. Those in Florida of especial interest in connection with future travel to the Everglades National Park would be Fort Matanzas and Fort Marion, relics of the Spanish occupation, and the proposed De Soto National Monument near St. Petersburg. A map is attached as Exhibit C showing the locations of these. In addition, many national shrines of first importance now maintained for posterity by private parties or organizations, but available for public inspection, such as Mount Vernon, the home of Washington; the Hermitage, near Nashville, Tenn.; the home of Andrew Jackson; Monticello, near Charlottesville, Va., the home of Thomas Jefferson, have particular appeal to those travelers who are interested in the history of our past. Obviously, a national park established on the southernmost tip of Florida, with all its natural history offerings and real opportunities for development for public recreational and educational use, will be a fitting complement to what is being done in such a large way along similar lines to the north of it.
In my opinion, therefore, based upon the recommendations of the Director of the National Park Service, the Tropic Everglades National Park project is one of outstanding merit, and the park, if established under authority of Congress, would measure up to established national park standards. It is my opinion also that an act similar to the organic act providing for the establishment of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and for the Shenandoah National Park of May 22, 1926, authorizing the establishment of
the Tropic Everglades National Park without cost to the United
Ray LYMAN WILBUR.
ACT PASSED BY THE FLORIDA LEGISLATURE
CHAPTER 13887, NO. 323
An act to provide for the acquisition of park lands and property in the coun.
ties of Dade, Monroe, and Collier, Florida, for the purpose of conveying the same to the United States of America to be used as a national park
Be it enacted by the legislature of the State of Florida:
SECTION 1. That a Florida State commission is hereby created under the name of Tropic Everglades National Park Commission and is referred to in this act as the commission. Said commission shall be composed of twelve members, all residents of the State of Florida, and shall be appointed by the governor for a period of four years, or until their successors are appointed and qualified.
Any vacancies occurring in said commission shall be filled by the governor.
The members of said commission, with the exception of the chairman of the board, shall receive no compensation for their services, but may be paid their traveling expenses, out of funds hereinafter mentioned to be received from subscriptions, said chairman to be elected from among the twelve commission members by a majority vote of the members. The salary of said chairman may be fixed by said commission.
SEC. 2. The said commission is hereby vested with all the powers necessary and incident to the accomplishment of the purposes to which it is created as declared herein, and when any power is expressly conferred on said commission it shall be held and construed that said power includes all other powers necessary or incident thereto,
Said commission is authorized and empowered to receive and take over the Tropic Everglades Park Association, and such assets as it may have for promotion of the Tropic Everglades National Park project, and upon such transfer said association shall be dissolved. Upon such transfer said commission is authorized to collect any unpaid balances of pledges or subscriptions made to said Tropic Everglades Park Association, and apply the funds to be received from such pledges for the purposes for which they were made.
Out of such funds and future subscriptions and gifts shall be paid the expenses of the said commission accruing by the purchases of land and other expenses.
SEC. 3. The commission shall have full control over the funds contributed or otherwise acquired by said commission. Said funds may be expended in the acquiring of land for national park purposes