by Mary Dickinson
December 28, 2003
The park is on a barrier island, one of the many long islands in Florida, separated from the mainland by the Intracoastal Waterway. You can enter the park from Ocean Boulevard - there is free parking along the boulevard, but not likely to be available on a warm, sunny day. Around the corner is the main entrance on Sunrise Boulevard. It costs $1 per person to get in and $3.50 to park a car inside the park.
Hugh Taylor Birch was a Chicago lawyer. In 1893, he decided to come to south Florida and bought up huge tracts of land for $1 an acre. He gave his daughter, Helen, and her husband, Frederic Bartlett, 40 acres for a wedding gift. Bonnet House is located on that land and is open to the public (see my Bonnet House journal). He donated his own home, Tarramar, and 180 acres to the state to be used as a public park.
You can ride a bike or car around the road in the park that circles the entire area. There is a jogging/hiking trail with 16 stops for exercise. There is also an exotic-plant trail. At the gate on the way in, we got a pamphlet to guide us on that trail. No. 8 plant is a Zulu Fig Tree. It has a series of stems that spread out 40-50 feet. The Swiss Family Robinson could have built a 10-room house in that tree. It is magnificent. No. 10, the Sour Orange Tree, had lots of ripe oranges on the ground. We tried one. Yuk!!! Tasty orange-tree branches can be grafted onto it and become hardy. Along the trail, large Milalluca trees had been girded and were dead. They're a Florida pest. We saw examples of the Strangler Fig, another Florida pest, actually strangling helpless palm trees.
Tarramar, Hugh Taylor Birch's home, is used as a visitor center. It is a typical 1940s Florida house. From the second-floor windows, we could see the ocean. On the first floor, displays told about Hugh Taylor Birch, the history of Fort Lauderdale, Florida ecology, and some good examples of Florida wildlife. Scheduled activities are planned and take place there. Although the park is open every day, in the winter the house is only open on weekends.
From journal Sea Forever