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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.
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