Thursday, May 11 was a very important date for the Florida Caverns State Park. After years of negotiating and planning, the final paper work was completed and signed for Florida Caverns State Park to acquire an additional 200 acres of land on the back side of the property. The property was acquired from the Day Bennett estate and is located on Fish Hatchery Road. This will allow a back access to the Caverns and add many benefits to the park, such as protect additional portions of the cave system as well as critical habitat for some of Florida’s rarest plant and animal species. This acquisition comes 75 years following the official opening of the park.
Instrumental in this acquisition coming to fruition was the Friends of the Florida Caverns who have worked tirelessly to see that it was successful. The Friends of the Florida Caverns is a nonprofit organization who work many hours at the park on projects to benefit the visitors to the Caverns.
The Florida Caverns State Park was a result of President Roosevelt’s New Deal established in 1933 to provide jobs for men during the Great Depression. A large portion of the land for Florida Caverns State Park was acquired in October, 1935. Countless hours of work went into the development of the park, which included many aspects beyond the cave. Progress continued on the park until 1942, when the United States joined World War II and funding was cut to the Civilian Conversation Corps and Works Progress Administration programs. Florida Caverns State Park was officially opened to the public in 1942 and the men who helped develop this park unquestionably left their mark. A walk around the 1,300-acre park reveals the remnants of a fish hatchery, a beautiful Visitor Center that houses the gift shop and museum, a 9-hole golf course adjacent to the park and much more.
At Florida Caverns State Park, rangers have been visitors to the park by way of hands on knowledge or from brochures at the front office and signage on the trails to wild flower walks, bird walks and cave tours. Rangers are always eager to provide programs on reptiles, archaeology, history of American Indians, prescribed burning and much more. The cave is a great opportunity for visitors to see the geology of the area. By exploring the subterranean system with a knowledgeable tour guide, visitors can see many cave formations such as soda straws, stalactites, stalagmites, columns, draperies and ribbons. The guides explain how a cave is formed and how it changes gradually through time with water acting as its architect. Fossils are abundant within the cave system. The cave has a nautilus, shark tooth, tube coral, shells and fish vertebrae that are all visible while traversing the rooms at an average of 25 feet below the surface of the ground.
For those interested in learning more about Friends of the Florida Caverns, their next meeting will be June 06 at 6 p.m. at Jim’s Steak House. They will hear from Chuck Hatcher, Assistant Director of the Florida Park Service for the State of Florida on the impact this acquisition will have on the Caverns. Those attending may choose to join in the Dutch treat meal.