National Geographic : 1966 Jul
In other words, highways and nature aren't incompatible at all. Judge Russell Train, Pres ident of the Conservation Foundation, has said that park men and highway engineers working together could produce a national highway system to "stagger the imagination." He sees roads of the future "paralleled with systems of footpaths, bicycle paths, and even bridle paths, with trails to natural features, with picnic grounds and even campsites." To this I say Amen. Everglades' Fate Depends on Water As with highway officials, we must also try to coordinate with the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers, whose dams and other projects drastically affect the look of the American landscape. Engineers and Park Service plan ners are both presently cooperating with the Delaware River Basin Commission in com pleting a dam and recreational park at Dela ware Water Gap in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Such a park would serve a huge seg ment-almost 30 percent-of the United States urban population. We are expecting 10,000,000 visitors a year. The future of Everglades National Park depends upon an eventual permanent agree ment between the Engineers, ourselves, and the State of Florida. The only park whose nat ural values we have recently stood in danger of losing, Everglades is a classic example of what human activities, even though far from the park, can do to a biological wilderness. Fresh water makes Everglades what it is. Without it the tall saw grass, fish, and alli gators would die, and water birds move out. Most of the water comes from rains over southern Florida, but an essential part has always come in from the north, including some from Lake Okeechobee, sixty miles away. In years past, Okeechobee waters flowed slowly to the Everglades in a natural "river" only inches deep and fifty miles wide. Start ing as far back as 1881, the water has been increasingly diverted along the way for agri cultural, domestic, even industrial use. In 1928, in an effort to prevent hurricane induced Okeechobee floods that occasionally devastated south Florida, the Engineers rein forced levees at the lake. Now they keep the lake always at a safe level by periodically sending water through the St. Lucie Canal to the Atlantic Ocean and by the Caloosahatchee River to the Gulf of Mexico. All these diversions could lead to only one thing: In dry years-and droughts are normal in nature-the park would suffer serious damage, and perhaps eventual destruction. From 1961 to 1965 we had not just one dry year, but four in a row. In 1964 the rangers even had to round up alligators and relocate them to save them from death in the dust of erstwhile water holes. We went to the Engineers and asked that, instead of sending lake water to the sea, they send it to us. We asked that they send it im mediately, on an emergency basis, and follow such temporary measures with a permanent system of dikes and ditches. Drought years, we knew, would come again. The answer to the problem turned out to be far more involved than our simple request, and the Engineers had to institute complex studies that are not yet complete. Meanwhile, at considerable expense and inconvenience to themselves, they have begun pumping us enough water to keep the park alive until a permanent solution is found. Florida water control authorities also have pledged support.