When it comes to the three national parks in South Florida, all you ever hear is “Everglades, Everglades, Everglades!”
This chant recalls the whines of the Brady Bunch’s TV character Jan Brady, the middle girl who couldn’t compete for attention with her popular older sister (“Marcia, Marcia, Marcia!“) or her cute little sister. The same dynamic is happening with these parks.
The attention lavished on Everglades National Park is well deserved, and President Obama chose to a visit it on Earth Day. But did he visit, or even mention, the other national park a mere 10 miles away?
With its double blessing, Miami-Dade County may be the only U.S. county to host two national parks: Everglades, and Biscayne National Park.
Say what? Most people near Miami don’t even know that Biscayne National Park exists. Another, third national park in southern Florida is much further away and accessible only by boat, west of Key West: Dry Tortugas National Park.
So “here’s a story of a lovely lady (South Florida), who is bringing up three very lovely girls:”
• Marcia: Everglades National Park
• Jan: Biscayne National Park
• Cindy: Dry Tortugas National Park
(Put those names together and you have an instant drag queen persona: Marcia Everglades, Jan Biscayne, and Cindy Dry.)
Biscayne National Park is the middle child in age, established formally in 1980 as a national park before the Dry Tortugas designation in 1992. It’s also second in size and popularity, with more than a half million visitors annually, as compared to Everglades’ annual visitorship of nearly 1 million. By this metric, both parks are moderately popular among the nation’s 59 national parks.
So why can’t Jan, I mean Biscayne National Park, get a presidential “Amen”? Is Jan Biscayne too “middle of the road,” too pedestrian to command the spotlight? Certainly not, but its status as an underwater park makes it invisible. Even many boaters floating in and out of the park have no idea where they are, because the ocean has no “Welcome to Biscayne” signs on the surface.
Perhaps getting people in the water can change that, and I am drumming up support for the Swim for Biscayne National Park (http://www.gofundme.com/Biscayne). Still in its conceptual phase, the swim should start to become real, very soon, when an organized group of swimmers start visiting the park to swim around it.
Stay tuned, and let’s do this, for Jan!