Heritage Is Not Dead

I have to say that with only 2 weeks left of my time here at Biscayne National Park I am becoming quite nostalgic. Again, so much to talk about from these past 2 weeks. I got to go snorkeling with our Volunteer Coordinator, Chief of Interpretation, high school interns and park volunteers, a real job perk for us protectors of the National Park Service’s largest marine park. I got to take lots of people out for their first canoeing experience, and also had lost of time to reflect on the importance of the special places we serve.

Growing up in Coconut Grove, Biscayne National Park has always been my backyard. I’ve been playing in the water since I can remember, and I’m grateful to say that snorkeling is second nature to breathing for me. I find, however, that many people that come to Biscayne are not so comfortable with the water. Many of our volunteers have only been snorkeling once or twice, if ever. But still, they show up at 8:30 am day in and day out ready to share their knowledge and pride for this park with visitors from around the world. I am so genuinely impressed that I was truly honored to accompany a group park volunteers to some of our reef sites last week.

High school interns and I pose in Bahama blue water on a crystal clear day in Biscayne Bay.

High school interns and I pose in Bahama blue water on a crystal clear day in Biscayne Bay.

The Mandalay shipwreck sits at 12 ft deep and is one of six shipwrecks within the park that form part of the Maritime Heritage Trail.

The Mandalay shipwreck sits at 12 ft deep and is one of six shipwrecks within the park that form part of the Maritime Heritage Trail.

Exploring the Mandalay.

Exploring the Mandalay.

Queen Angelfish, just one of many beautiful tropical fish we spotted at the Mandalay.

A Queen Angelfish, just one of many beautiful tropical fish we spotted at the Mandalay.

The trunk fish (pictured) as a peculiar hard inner carapace.

The trunk fish (pictured) as a peculiar hard inner carapace.

Trumpet fish.

A Trumpet fish swims through a whole in the Mandalay.

A school of reef squid!

A school of reef squid!

Chief of Interpretation, William Cheek, gives a thumbs up to a successful day of snorkeling.

Chief of Interpretation, William Cheek, gives a thumbs up to a successful day of snorkeling.

Later that week, I went on some adventures of my own with my family and friends. We enjoyed an evening on one of Biscayne Bay’s many “spoiler islands,” left over from dredging waterways, and taught our kids to snorkel and fish. It was not so long ago that we too played in these same waters and it is important to us that our siblings and children grow up connected to nature and enjoying these places that are so special and dear to us.
Our adventuring crew.

Our adventuring crew heading out from Diner Key Marina in Coconut Grove.

Hayley and Hunter learn to snorkel.

Hayley and Hunter learn to snorkel.

My little brother, Donato, visiting from Argentina, casts his first line!

My little brother, Donato, visiting from Argentina, casts his first line!

A contemplative moment.

A contemplative moment.

As I watched Donato look out to the water that evening, a wave of melancholy overcomes me. I can’t help but think about all the recent headlines: racist attacks, terrorist attacks, toxic algae blooms, polluted water, corruption. Will this all be here for him tomorrow? Will he get to enjoy this with his children the way I am filled by seeing him play in the water today? I still don’t know. This week, Biscayne National Park Interpretive Staff and I visited the Dade Heritage Trust and History Miami, Miami’s Museum of History. My favorite part was seeing all the old photos of South Florida’s pioneers, and the comparison with photos from today.
Below, Ranger Gary Bremen points out where the Brickell Trading Post used to be along the bank of the Miami River in the late 1800's. Above, an actual picture of the post.

Below, Ranger Gary Bremen points out where the Brickell Trading Post used to be along the bank of the Miami River in the late 1800’s. Above, an actual picture of the post from History Miami.

"Millionaire's Row" on Brickell Bay Drive. Pictures from the @dadeheritagetrust in Dr. Jackson's historic office (now their headquarters).

“Millionaire’s Row” on Brickell Bay Drive. Pictures from the Dade Heritage Trust in Dr. Jackson’s historic office (now their headquarters).

Again, as I walk the corridors of the museum and flip through pages in the Trust’s library, the melancholy sets in. I’ve talked about this in my blogs before. It’s sometimes hard to stay positive in a place where officials opt for shiny new buildings that shadow our history and pollute our heritage, but then I have days at the park that light me up. Brothers share their first canoeing experience and the crackle of summer thunderstorms. Families spend a day together just talking and laughing and eating outside. And all reminds me of why I am here, why I have opted to stay in Miami and why I chose to come back. IMG_4655 IMG_4863 This weekend we kick off Latino Conservation Week. I am excited, proud and full. I know this has meaning. So much meaning. Especially for my beautiful Biscayne Bay, sandwiched between a metropolitan city and a nuclear power plant.

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