Twenty-five years ago things were different. Gerald Ford was President. Home computers were the exception and not the norm. There was no Internet as we now know it. People didn't walk around with cell phones to their ears.
Most things have changed a lot since 1975. But Canaveral National Seashore is one of the exceptions. It is celebrating its 25th anniversary with the same pristine beaches, barrier island, waterways with over a thousand plant species, three hundred species of birds, the longest stretch of undeveloped beach on the east coast of Florida and hammocks of ancient oaks. It still provides critical habitat for 14 federally threatened and endangered species of wildlife including beach-nesting area for thousands of sea turtles each summer.
And that is the beauty of Canaveral National Seashore. It's mission, as stated by Superintendent Robert Newkirk, is "to preserve and protect the outstanding natural, scenic, scientific, ecological and historic values and resources of the seashore and provide for public outdoor recreation use and enjoyment."
You can tell just by visiting the park that staff and volunteers are excited. VIP's (Volunteers in park) proudly wear their tee shirts that proclaim 1975-2000. Available is a newly designed turtle pin. Significance statement cards, recycle bags and the park newspaper, Sea Breeze, all allude to the anniversary. Banners will be hung from the Visitor's Center and from Headquarters.
There will be quite a few events thought out the year," says Laura Patterson, Interpretive Ranger. She is preparing a special slide program for the Visitors Center and as a public program. "It will basically commemorate the last 25 years with slides of the park from the time it was established."
Another new addition will be a pontoon boat for public tours. "We will have historical tours of Turtle Mound, Eldora and Seminole Rest. We will also have nature tours to observe wildlife and natural features. The boat holds twelve passengers and the tours will be by reservation. They will last about one and a half to two hours, 'says Patterson.'
Restoration 2000 will help to celebrate the park's anniversary." We will be planting a 100 gallon live oak to commemorate the park's 25 years. We are searching carefully for just the right tree, one we hope will provide future generations with shade and beauty for the next 25 years and beyond," says Sandra Hines, Interpretive Ranger. "The tree will be purchased with funds from the Restoration 2000 Grant funding from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and Native Plant Initiative Program."
The park newspaper, Sea Breeze, will print a silver anniversary edition. There will be an art contest for children who enter through their schools. "We are excited about area school children participating in the contest after they have participated in the parks Environmental Education Program. The saying that 'pictures speak a thousand words' comes to mind when we see what part of the program has made the biggest impression on the children through their art work," says Hines.
Other plans include an employee reunion in the Fall, a photography contest, a fee free day and celebration on August 25th and a 25th Anniversary poster. Of course, some things have changed in the park's history. District Ranger, Jim Cahill, started his Park Service Career in 1978 as a Law Enforcement Ranger at Canaveral National Seashore "Our first Information Center was a trailer near what is now the boat ramp. The present ranger station was my "Bunkhouse." says Cahill. "There were 36 crossovers from present day #1 to #5, but the lots only accommodated one or two cars. And I almost forgot ... the road was sand and as rough as a cob (you didn't take a car you cared for down that road.)"
"Turtle Mound has changed. There was no boardwalk. The mound was being eroded, so in 1979 the Youth Conservation Corps (a group of local teens) built the first Turtle Mound Boardwalk," remembers Cahill. "To sum this up in a line or two, .. Canaveral, 25 years after it's establishment, is a place where people can see the beach as it was in the past. We've made improvements allowing people to enjoy Canaveral with minimum impact of this wonderful environment".
Carol Hammond - Freelance Writer and Canaveral Volunteer
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