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Savannas Preserve State Park turns 35

Savannas Preserve State Park, described as “one of the Treasure Coast’s best-kept secrets,” turns 35 this week. It opened April 25, 1977.

Here are excerpts of a 2002 article by former colleague William M. Hartnett:

“The effort to protect the Savannas’ collection of pine flatwoods, shallow marshes and imperiled scrub began long before the state opened the first small piece of the now 8-square mile park.

“Conservationists began lobbying state officials to preserve the Savannas in the 1960s, when it was a playground for mud-bogging rabble-rousers and a convenient dump for the stolen and stripped refuse of car thieves.

“The late Dr. Walter Stokes, an environmentalist and Olympic gold medal-winning marksman, is widely credited with being one of the original and leading proponents of preserving the Savannas.


Walter Stokes with his wife Florence in their Stuart back yard in 1978 (Palm Beach Post staff file photo)

“Although many natural areas on the Treasure Coast were devoured by mushrooming neighborhoods and roads long ago, visitors paddling the Savannas’ tea-stained waters or hiking its sandy trails are still greeted on clear mornings by an incredibly blue sky and a soundtrack of grunting alligators and honking sandhill cranes.”

In 2011, Gov. Rick Scott rejected a proposal from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to shut down Savannas and 52 other state parks in order to cut 15 percent from its budget.

Savannas Preserve State Park is located off Riverview Drive in Jensen Beach. Open 8 a.m. to sunset daily. Admission: $3 per vehicle. Call (772) 340-7530.

Environmental Education Center: 2541 Walton Road, Port St. Lucie. Open: 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Thursday-Monday. Call: (772) 398-2779.

Savannas Recreation Area: Operated by St. Lucie County. Midway Road 1 mile east of U.S. 1 in Fort Pierce. (772) 464-7855. Offers campsites for tents and RVs.

Canoe landings: north of Environmental Education Center and near park’s main office off River-view Drive. No gasoline-powered boats allowed. Free guided canoe tours offered three times a month by reservation.

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Posted in Eliot Kleinberg April 26, 2012 at 2:14 pm.

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