PROJECT UNDERWAY IS TO MAKE THE ONLY TROPICAL FOREST IN THE CONTINENTAL U.S. A NATIONAL ATTRACTION
Special Report: It has been a labor of love. And now the community will begin to see the efforts of years of volunteer efforts to make the only tropical forest and garden in the continental United States a treasure worthy of National Attention.
The Society has raised over $750,000 in grants and funding for a phase one of a three phase project that will add two fresh water ponds with natural streams, elevated board walking trails, wildlife viewing stations, orchids and epiphytes, birding stations, a whole new array of rare native plants and more. A new temporary entry filled with lush landscaping and new trees will greet visitors.
The Monroe County Tourist Development Council along with US Fish and Wildlife Service, The Florida Dept. of Agriculture -Urban Forestry, US Dept of Interior, Stanley Smith Horticultural Trust ,Woodruff Foundation and South Florida Water Management are playing a major role in the funding of this project. Advisors include Dr. Stuart Pimm ,Board member and advisor to National Geographic, the Institute for Regional Conservation, Nature Conservancy, Partners For Fish and Wildlife, Fred Hildebrandt, Hydrologic Associates USA, RMPK Group and Raymond Jungles, 2005 Florida landscape architect of the year.
“The vision is becoming reality and this is a great multicomponent project that will not only bring back a very rare ecosystem that once encompassed all of the northern part of Stock Island, but will also have great recreational, educational, meditative and natural aesthetic components. In order to accomplish this, the project needed a first class, dedicated board and top flight advisors. I am proud to say we have all this in place and there is more to come!” reports Carolann Sharkey, Chairman and volunteer.
The Northern part of Stock Island was once a 55 acre tropical jungle hammock filled with some of the rarest flora and fauna known to the nation documented back to the 1800’s. Even in recent years, species never before sited in the United States were found in this habitat, including the rare Cuban fig eating bat. The story of how this forest came into existence and what makes it so rare will be unfolding in the coming months.