Although all of the National Parks and Monuments are remarkable, and all are worth visiting, I wanted to create a poster for Biscayne National Park. Ninety-five percent of the park is water, and the shore of the bay is the location of an extensive mangrove forest. The park covers 172,971 acres and includes Elliott Key, the park's largest island and first of the true Florida Keys, formed from fossilized coral reef. It was my opportunity to illustrate a variety of marine life. The bay waters harbor immature and adult fish, seagrass beds, sponges, soft corals, and manatees. The keys are covered with tropical vegetation including endangered cacti and palms, and their beaches provide nesting grounds for endangered sea turtles. Offshore reefs and waters harbor more than 200 species of fish, pelagic birds, whales and hard corals.
Biscayne Bay region also has a rich history. As early as 10,000 years ago before rising sea levels filled the bay, the Tequesta people occupied the islands and shoreline from about 4,000 years before the present to the 16th century, when the Spanish took possession of Florida. Reefs claimed ships from Spanish times through the 20th century, with more than 40 documented wrecks within the park's boundaries. In the early 20th century the islands became secluded destinations for wealthy Miamians who built getaway homes and social clubs. Mark C. Honeywell's guesthouse on Boca Chita Key was the area's most elaborate private retreat, featuring a mock lighthouse. The Cocolobo Cay Club was at various times owned by Miami developer Carl G. Fisher, yachtsman Garfield Wood, and President Richard Nixon's friend Bebe Rebozo, and was visited by four United States presidents. The amphibious community of Stiltsville was established in the 1930s in the shoals of northern Biscayne Bay, taking advantage of its remoteness from land to offer offshore gambling and alcohol during Prohibition. Through the 1960s and 1970s, two fossil-fueled power plants and two nuclear power plants were built on the bay shores. A backlash against development led to the 1968 designation of Biscayne National Monument. The preserved area was expanded by its 1980 re-designation as Biscayne National Park. The park is heavily used by boaters, and apart from the park's visitor center on the mainland, its land and sea areas are accessible only by boat. ‰ÛÓ Lyla Paakkanen