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

January 1
NEPA Enacted (1970)
January 2
Bob Marshall Born (1901)
January 3
Canaveral National Seashore Created (1975)
January 4
The Real James Bond Born (1900)
January 5
National Bird Day
January 6
Wild Kingdom First Airs (1963)
January 7
Gerald Durrell Born (1925)
January 8
Alfred Russel Wallace Born (1823)
January 9
Muir Woods National Monument Created (1908)
January 10
National Houseplant Appreciation Day
January 11
Aldo Leopold Born (1887)
January 12
National Trust of England Established (1895)
January 13
MaVynee Betsch, the Beach Lady, Born (1935)
January 14
Martin Holdgate Born (1931)
January 15
British Museum Opened (1795)
January 16
Dian Fossey Born (1932)
January 17
Benjamin Franklin, America’s First Environmentalist, Born (1706)
January 18
White Sands National Monument Created (1933)
January 19
Yul Choi, Korean Environmentalist, Born (1949)
January 19
Acadia National Park Established (1929)
January 20
Penguin Appreciation Day
January 21
The Wilderness Society Founded (1935)
January 22
Iraq Sabotages Kuwaiti Oil Fields (1991)
January 23
Sweden Bans CFCs in Aerosols (1978)
January 24
Baden-Powell Publishes “Scouting for Boys” (1908)
January 25
Badlands National Park Established (1939)
January 26
Benjamin Franklin Disses the Bald Eagle (1784)
January 27
National Geographic Society Incorporated (1888)
January 28
Bermuda Petrel, Thought Extinct for 300 Years, Re-discovered (1951)
January 29
Edward Abbey, author of “Desert Solitaire,” Born (1927)
January 30
England Claims Antarctica (1820)
January 31
Stewart Udall, Secretary of Interior, Born (1920)
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