Sunday, January 30, 2011

Hugh Birch State Park of Fort Lauderdale

As Fort Lauderdale turn 100 this year, I have been exploring some of its historic "gems". One "gem" is Hugh Taylor Birch State Park. This state park is located on the barrier island of Fort Lauderdale Beach.

Over 100 years ago, the barrier Island of Fort Lauderdale was lush with mangrove swamps, thick Florida hammock (think jungle), and wildlife. At the turn of the 20 century, there were very few people living in Fort Lauderdale. A couple of families had trading posts that traded with the Seminole Indians. Other inhabitants included military personnel and  adventurers.

In the 1890's Chicago  attorney Hugh Taylor Birch came to south Florida  and bought a big chunk of Fort Lauderdale beach for $1.00 an acre, owning a 3.5 mile ( 5.5 km)  stretch of beachfront. In the 1940's Birch  built a 180 acre estate tropical paradise called Terramar (land to see). In 1941 Birch noticed the rapid development of Fort Lauderdale and  decided to donate his estate to the Florida Board of Forest and Parks.

The park is an oasis. Nestled between beach and the intracoastal waterway, there are trails, mangrove swamps and  feeling of how Fort Lauderdale looked before development. The Park Rangers often make comparisons to New York City's Central Park. Both parks are an urban oasis set amongst busy cities.

Like Central Park, there are runners, rollerbladers, and bicyclists. I often run through this park, and enjoy the the solitude and shade. Bike and canoe rentals are available.  There are races and marathons that also use the park as well as other activities. The park is also a great place to escape if you get tired of the beach; just cross the street (A1A), and there is an entrance near Sunrise Blvd.

A1A Marathon and other races meander through the Birch State Park. Great place to picnic, run or just hang out!

The Details:
Hugh Taylor Birch State Park
3109 East Sunrise Boulevard
Fort Lauderdale, FL 33304
Open 365 days a year, 08:00 am to sunset
Access is available on A1A as well as Sunrise Ave.

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