The serenity and isolation of remote islands have always captured my imagination. It is for this reason that I decided to visit Lignumvitae Key Island, a place rich in the biological history of Florida State. The Key is one of the southernmost aquatic preserves located in the lower half of the Florida Keys archipelago. It was established in 1990. To access the park, one has the option of a private boat or a tour boat. I decided to take the tour boat from Robbies Marina as it would be more fun, the Rangers were explaining everything before we even reached the island. The most famous structure on the island is the Matheson House which was built in 1919 when a wealthy Miami chemist, William J. Matheson bought the island. He also constructed a windmill to supply the house with electricity and a cistern to provide fresh rainwater. During that time, the land and sea around the people of the island provided most of their needs.
History of the Park
The island started forming thousands of years ago as a living coral reef jutted up from the seafloor. Freezing of great water quantities exposed the top of the reef to form an island composed of fossilized coral rock. Organic debris was left on the rock by storm tides and waves. The soil was created when the debris decayed on the bare rocks. Seeds from other tropical islands were brought by wind or by the digestive tracts of the migratory birds. The seeds sprouted and began to grow and with each generation, the island grew and diversified its tropical hammock.
Flora and Fauna
The island is dominated by tropical hardwood hammocks which include Holywood Lignum-vitae, Florida Strangler Fig, False Mastic, Gumbo-limbo, Pigeonplum, and Poisonwood. These hardwood trees make up the virgin tropical forest in the island. It is believed that the kind of serenity in Lignumvitae was also once enjoyed on most of Floridas Upper Keys. As the people visiting the Keys increased, development of the island was necessary to accommodate the increasing number. Most of the unique vegetation of the island was lost to the development. This makes the tropical forest on the island a very rare and unique place. The parks wildlife is composed of a variety of migratory birds, shore, and wading.
Management of the Park
The park has a higher level of protection as it is managed by state and federal management. The reason for collaborative management of the park is due to the increasing threats faced by the subtropical ecosystem of the Florida Keys. Florida Park Service handles most of the on-site management of the park.
The parks are run by the rangers who are employed by Florida Park Service. The rangers conduct guided tours to the visitors three times a day. They also get the visitors on a boat from Robbies Marina. Volunteers also work in the park to provide the much-needed labor to the evidently understaffed state park. The main work of the rangers and volunteers is to help people enjoy their time in the park as they learn and understand the importance of protecting the life of the park.
Protection of the ParkTo protect the fragile nature of Lignumvitae Park, the visitors are required to always stay within the clearing except if they are in the company of a Park Ranger. The maximum number of people allowed on site at any one time is 50; 25 on the clearing and 25 on the trail. The park is closed when the capacity is reached. As a protection to the visitors, they are required to wear walking shoes and should have mosquito repellent. Notably, most of the facilities in the park are not accessible to the handicapped. However, this does not mean that handicapped people cannot visit the island. In such a case, a Park Ranger should be consulted for special needs.
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