Canaveral National Seashore Created (1975)

A long barrier island on Florida’s Atlantic Coast, just west of Orlando and south of Daytona, is notable for two reasons.  One is the presence of NASA’s Kennedy Space Center rocket launching site.  The other is Canaveral National Seashore, signed into existence on January 3, 1975, by President Gerald Ford.

Even without being adjacent to Kennedy Space Center, Canaveral deserves recognition as an area of outstanding ecological value.  The seashore includes 58,000 acres of barrier island, including a 24-mile stretch of undeveloped beach—the longest on Florida’s East Coast.  But its proximity to the space center gives it special cache.  Formerly part of a missile-testing facility, it was declared a national seashore to provide a natural buffer to the adjacent NASA rocket-launching sites.  That rationale has meant no development in the park, aside from a few parking lots dotted along the beach.  There are virtually no facilities, for recreational users or anyone else.  Day use only is allowed, and visitors must be gone by sundown.

Canaveral National Seashore, 2005 (photo by Joneboi)

Consequently, the area is a haven for wildlife, with only natural light—and dark—and sounds of wind and surf.

Canaveral national Seashore (photo by KimonBerlin)

The park includes habitat for 15 threatened or endangered species, more than all but one other National Park Service property.  Three species of sea turtles nest there, building up to 7,000 nests every year.  As many as 250 species of birds are present, either resident or using the habitat for refuge on annual migrations.  It may be the ultimate paradox—a site created to preserve untouched nature is neighbor to a site where humankind’s most advanced technologies are launched into outer space!

The area seems untouched now, but it has been inhabited by humans for a long time.  Archeological sites within the seashore demonstrate that Native Americans of the Timucua and Ais peoples were well established before Spanish explorers, including Ponce de Leon, landed in the vicinity around 1500.  The Indians built Turtle Mound, a hill of oyster shells that long provided a navigation landmark and is still more than 30 feet high. Spansh and French explorers frequented the area for centuries, and the role of the lagoon behind the beach was significant for water transportation through the late 1800s.

Turtle Mound in 1915 (photo by Elias Howard Sellard)

Visitation is high.  More than 1.6 million people enjoyed the park in 2016, and visitation has been over 1 million annually since soon after the park’s opening in 1975.  The park is open very day of the year, but the southern beach area is so close to one NASA launching pad that it is closed when launches are scheduled.

References;

Duckett, Maryellen Kennedy.  Florida’a Pristine Parks:  Canaveral National Seashore.  National Geographic.  Available at:  https://www.nationalgeographic.com/travel/florida-pristine-parks/canaveral-national-seashore/.  Accessed January 3, 2018.

National Park Service.  2007.  First Annual Centennial Strategy for Canaveral National Seashore.  Available at:  http://npshistory.com/publications/future-americas-parks-2007/centennial-strategies/cana.pdf,  Accessed January 3, 2018.

National Park Service.  Canaveral National Seashore, Florida.  Available at:  https://www.nps.gov/cana/learn/nature/index.htm.  Accessed January 3, 2018.

Orlando Sentinel.  2013.  Florida Beach Guide:  Canaveral National Seashore.  Available at:  http://www.orlandosentinel.com/travel/beach/orl-canaveralbeach-story-story.html.  Accessed January 3, 2018.

This Month in Conservation

February 1
Afobaka Dam and Operation Gwamba (1964)
February 2
Groundhog Day
February 3
George Adamson, African Lion Rehabilitator, Born (1906)
February 4
Congress Overrides President Reagan’s Veto of Clean Water Act (1987)
February 5
National Wildlife Federation Created (1936)
February 6
Colin Murdoch, Inventor of the Tranquilizer Gun, Born (1929)
February 7
Karl August Mobius, Ecology Pioneer, Born (1825)
February 8
President Johnson Addresses Congress about Conservation (1965)
February 8
Lisa Perez Jackson, Environmental Leader, Born (1982)
February 9
U.S. Fish Commission Created (1871)
February 10
Frances Moore Lappe, author of Diet for a Small Planet, born (1944)
February 11
International Day of Women and Girls in Science
February 12
Judge Boldt Affirms Native American Fishing Rights (1974)
February 13
Thomas Malthus Born (1766)
February 14
Nature’s Faithful Lovers
February 15
Complete Human Genome Published (2001)
February 16
Kyoto Protocol, Controlling Greenhouse-Gas Emissions, Begins (2005)
February 16
Alvaro Uglade, Father of Costa Rica’s National Parks, Born (1946)
February 17
Sombath Somphone, Laotian Environmentalist, Born (1952)
February 17
R. A. Fischer, Statistician, Born (1890)
February 18
Julia Butterfly Hill, Tree-Sitter, Born (1974)
February 18
World Pangolin Day
February 19
Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial Established (1962)
February 20
Ansel Adams, Nature Photographer, Born (1902)
February 21
Carolina Parakeet Goes Extinct (1918)
February 22
Nile Day
February 23
Italy’s Largest Inland Oil Spill (2010)
February 24
Joseph Banks, British Botanist, Born (1743)
February 25
First Federal Timber Act Passed (1799)
February 26
Four National Parks Established (1917-1929)
February 27
International Polar Bear Day
February 28
Watson and Crick Discover The Double Helix (1953)
February 29
Nature’s Famous Leapers
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