Public Lands. People often think of them as sweeping landscapes, the kind that summon us for weekend getaways and decorate our postcards. They’re remote, breathtaking, and beautiful–but they are not the only public lands we have. Urban parks located within our cities provide accessible ways for people to interact with nature on a daily basis. These urban parks are more than just recreation areas, they are the lungs of our communities, the green spaces that make our neighborhoods livable. They also help us meet our 30×30 conservation goals of protecting 30% of our land, water, and oceans by 2030.
Urban parks are essential to our quality of life…but they weren’t just protected by themselves. In fact, many of the parks we know and love today were only made possible through the Florida Communities Trust (FCT) – a program administered by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. FCT provides funding assistance through matching grants to cities, counties, and non-profit land trusts to create parks and open spaces. Unfortunately, this program was not funded during the 2021 Legislative Session. In the face of rapid population growth and continued development, the need to conserve and acquire more pockets of natural land in Florida’s communities is more important than ever.
Hover over the following images to see some of the best parks South Florida has to offer, which have received funding from FCT:
Oleta River State Park, North Miami Beach
The 1,033-acre state park located within minutes of busy North Miami Beach is South Florida’s largest urban park. Visitors can launch kayaks onto the Oleta river and paddle along forested mangroves and restored coastal marsh. Biking and hiking trails are abundant and dozens of picnic tables, grills, and pavilions are available for use.
Vista View Park, Davie
Despite its humble origins, this trash landfill-converted urban park is now one of Broward County’s most unique recreational areas. The inclines are ideal for runners and bikers, and the 65-foot grassy hilltops provide a great view with a breeze. Many endangered burrowing owls also now call this place home.
Dania Cove Park, Dania Beach
This cozy waterfront park features tables, benches, covered pavilions, two fishing docs overlooking the water, and even a scenic mangrove cove. The paved paths, Florida native vegetation, and shady trees make it an ideal park for a quick visit.
Osprey Park, West Palm Beach
Osprey Park is located alongside one of the best sections of the Lake Worth Lagoon, making it an excellent place for fishing or spotting one of Florida’s iconic manatees. Mango trees dot the landscape and with picnic tables, a dog park, volleyball, a playground, and exercise paths, there really is something for everyone.
Frenchman's Forest, Palm Beach Gardens
Frenchman’s Forest is so lush and so green that you’ll almost forget that it’s tucked behind a massive shopping mall. This 172-acre nature preserve has more than three miles of hiking trails that boast an abundance of wildlife including woodpeckers, hawks, owls, butterflies, and other critters. Migratory songbirds especially love the low oak canopies at the very beginning of the path.
Did we miss your favorite park? We want to hear from you! Submit a 2-3 sentence description of your favorite Florida natural area by September 25th to help us celebrate Public Lands Day.
After you’re done, check out parks in your area that were funded by FCT!