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Everglades National Park, Florida

December 4, 2011 by staff 

Everglades National Park, Florida, It took a lot of people a lot of years to make the case to save the Everglades. But it took a Polk Countian — or two — to make a national park reality. The Everglades, of course, are the vast wetlands that cover Florida’s lower peninsula. Often characterized as a swamp, the Everglades actually encompass a large number of different ecosystems, providing homes to thousands of birds, animals and reptiles.

“All told, there is no landscape on earth quite like the Everglades,” states the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Public interest in preserving the Everglades began in the early 1900s, according to a history published by The Miami Herald in 1997.

“The slaughter of millions of birds — egrets, spoonbills and ibis for plumes to decorate ladies’ hats — energized the National Audubon Society to push for anti-poaching laws, eventually adopted by the Florida Legislature,” the Herald reported.

The Florida Federation of Women’s Clubs were the first to take up the cause of creating a wilderness preserve, creating the 1,920-acre Royal Palm State Park in 1916, the Herald history states.

Landscape architect Ernest Coe continued the charge, creating the Tropical Everglades Park Association. For more than 20 years, the transplant from Connecticut was an outspoken advocate of the Everglades, promoting Florida’s “tropical Eden” and the need to preserve it.

“Until his death on Jan. 1, 1951, Coe did little else but campaign for the creation of a national park,” Geoffrey Tomb wrote for the Herald. “He led tours by car, boat, even blimp. Dressed in his trademark white suit, he spoke to any organization he could, from civic clubs to Congress. Coe became the ‘Father of the Everglades.’”

Other Northerners, however, didn’t get it. To them, the Everglades were a snake and alligator-infested swamp that held little value. To them, the park was little more than a local pet project.

“The Everglades National Park, properly developed, is no more ‘local’ than Yellowstone National Park or the Big Trees sequoia area in California or the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor,” one St. Petersburg Times editorial howled.

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