From Wasteland to Tourist Attraction: The Creation of Everglades National Park
Copyright 2022 Society of Wetland Scientists
Is Version Of
Ecology, Evolution and Organismal Biology
It took more than 50 years to change public perception of the Everglades from a wasteland that needed to be drained to a valuable natural resource that needed to be preserved as a National Park. The first attempts to stop the ongoing drainage of the Everglades started in the first two decades of the twentieth century. These early anti-drainage campaigns were led by progressive activist and journalist Frank Stoneman, Seminole activist Minnie Moore-Willson, and botanist John Kunkel Small. Their efforts failed. It was not until Ernest F. Coe moved to Miami in 1925 and established the Everglades National Park Association in 1928 that the movement to turn the Everglades into a national park made considerable progress. Coe first worked with fledgling U.S. National Park Service officials to get federal legislation passed in 1934 to establish an Everglades National Park. In parallel, he worked with Florida politicians, especially Governor and later U.S. Senator Spessard Holland, to get State support. While the National Park Service recognized the ecological significance of the Everglades, the State of Florida supported the Park’s creation primarily as a tourist attraction. To establish the Park, Florida eventually agreed to donate hundreds of thousands of acres of state land in the Everglades to the Federal government plus two million dollars to buy additional private land. Despite numerous setbacks, Everglades National Park was dedicated by President Harry S. Truman in December 1947. It was America’s first ecological park and the first to preserve a wetland.
This article is published as van der Valk, A. G. 2022. From wasteland to tourist attraction: the creation of Everglades National Park. Wetland Science and Practice 40:293-301. (October 2022 issue). Posted with permission.