A green spot in Broward County
Broward County is the second most dense county in Florida, runner-up to Pinellas (home to the cities of Tampa and St. Petersburg), but there are still places there to paddle among the flora and fauna.
I was in one of those areas recently and no, it wasn’t to the west, into the Everglades, it was smack in the urban corridor, east of I-95 and just south of the busy international airport and cruise ship and cargo terminal. We were in sight of jets taking off and landing and the huge loading cranes at the terminal.
We put in at West Lake Park, a nice county facility in southeastern Broward. Home to miles of mangrove estuary riddled with narrow shaded paddling trails, it straddles Sheridan Street and is pretty big. In three hours of paddling on a delightful, windless day we didn’t even cover the whole park area.
The park is also home to the Anne Kolb Nature Center, a nice rest and informational/educational stop on any paddling trip there. There’s also a 70-foot viewing tower (with a nice elevator!), tourboat rides and walking trails.
While I was paddling around, I began to suspect that this area had come close to being developed at one time. There’s a suspicious grid pattern to many of the canoe trails through the mangroves; likely they were canals dug at one time to drain the land and create uplands for construction. The canals would have afforded homeowners boat access to the intercoastal and from there the ocean, via the inlet a few miles north.
Did a little research later on, and it turns out I was right. At one time plots were even sold. Remember back in the good old days when you could sell useless swamp land to Northerners?
Development pressure increased in the 1970’s and a former journalist turned county commissioner by the name of Anne Kolb spearheaded a movement to protect the area. She was joined by environmental groups, such as my colleagues in the Sierra Club Group down there. Once securely in county hands, the area began a process that is still ongoing: restoration back into the mangrove wetland it once was.
I’m glad it became a protected area, one of the few dots of green space left in a very urban southeast Florida county.
And, in case you were wondering, the density of Broward County is 1,300 people per square mile. The least dense county in Florida is in the Panhandle, Liberty County, where the average square mile contains ten people. Bristol is the county seat and only city, and half the county is occupied by the Apalachicola National Forest.
I need to go there some day.
Below is me fiddling with the camera and some of the photos I took.