About the Park

Advocates and mystery, reckless growth, unrestrained exploitation of resources, and the narrative of Florida is the narrative of the establishment of the Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park. Nature emerges victorious, and ultimately, so do we.

The Timber Harvesting Period – 1913-1948

In 1913, the Fakahatchee Strand was purchased by the Lee-Tidewater Cypress Company for $1.4 million, with the intent of logging the cypress.

Timber extraction of considerable magnitude did not occur, nonetheless, until 1944 as a precautionary measure during wartime. Substantial timber harvesting operations continued until the early 1950s.

However, the opportunity did not come to fruition. It has been reported that in 1922, an agent for Henry Ford acquired a choice to buy the Strand with the aim of donating it to the state as a park. The delay in starting significant logging activities could possibly be attributed to the housing market boom in the mid-1920s and the subsequent years of economic downturn.

Unsuccessful Efforts at Preservation – 1948-1964

Dan Beard, the superintendent of Everglades National Park, examined the Strand and proposed it as a National Monument after the southern 10 miles of the Fakahatchee Strand had been harvested by 1948.

Beard made remarks about the scenic charm of the region. The Strand housed a vast assortment of different animals, such as black bear, Florida panther, mangrove fox, and a higher concentration of mammal species compared to Everglades National Park. During that period, around one million board feet of cypress were being extracted from the Strand every week.

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The endeavor to protect the Strand was unsuccessful once more. Nevertheless, in 1964, another endeavor was undertaken, prompted by Mel Finn, a Miami lawyer and environmentalist, although the necessary funding and authority to acquire the area did not materialize in the late 1940s.

Marketing Wetland Properties in Florida – 1966-1972

During this time, three sections of the Strand received a donation of a park for Collier County. A significant portion of the land was sold as 1 1/4-acre lots as part of Golden Gate Estates by GAC, which later changed its name to G.A.C. Properties, Inc. (GAC), the company that acquired the property. In 1966, the Gulf-American Land Company purchased the Strand from the Lee-Tidewater Cypress Company.

Florida Legislature Prepares for Conservation – 1972

In 1972, the Florida legislature passed the Land Conservation Act, which had the purpose of protecting and conserving the irreplaceable and unique environmentally significant lands. This act was administered through the Division of Parks and Recreation of the Department of Natural Resources. Later, voters in Florida approved a $240 million bond issue, which set in motion the acquisition of major environmental land known as the Program for Environmentally Endangered Lands (EEL). This was Florida’s first major land acquisition program for environmental purposes.

The Start of Four Decades of Acquiring

Negotiations with GAC began in 1972 when GAC was temporarily halted for allegedly filling and dredging violations at the Fakahatchee Strand Settlement. As a resolution to pay for damages, GAC offered to sell its holdings to the State and attempted to regain possession of the lots it had previously offered and sold. Approximately 9,523 acres of land in the south of US Highway 41 were acquired by GAC.

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The first land purchase to create the Fakahatchee Strand State Park began as the beginning of a continuous acquisition effort, which is still ongoing to this day. Approximately 44,000 acres had been acquired by 1978. The Preserve consisted of 69,896 acres as of January 1, 1999, with approximately 34,727 acres acquired under the EEL Program. The effort to expand the project between lands and SR 29 has been assumed by the Lands Recreation and Conservation Program, which came to an end with the acquisition of the project under the CARL Program.

Most of the lands have been acquired since 1990. The funding for the Preservation project has been acquired since 2000. Hopefully, with the use of these funds, the effort to complete the project will continue until all reasonable efforts have been exhausted. Approximately 16,700 acres will remain to be acquired.

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