The lack of public transportation to Biscayne and Everglades National Parks will soon be a thing of the past thanks to the City of Homestead and its elected leadership. The City of Homestead, recently designated as the “Gateway to Everglades and Biscayne National Parks”, is creating a pioneer program that will offer free public transportation to Everglades and Biscayne National Parks by expanding its already successful local trolley service. This ground breaking project will be the first of its kind nationally to offer public transportation to two national parks.
Presently there is no public transportation available to Biscayne or Everglades National Park in Miami-Dade County. This lack of accessibility to our national treasures has left local populations without access to private transportation and tourists, especially international visitors, with limited ways to see or experience the majestic beauty of South Florida’s National Parks. The City of Homestead is located less than ten miles from Biscayne National Park and Everglades National Park and offers the ideal location for overnight guests to lodge, dine, shop, gather information, and purchase supplies when visiting the parks.
The City of Homestead trolleys will transport local families, students, tourists and other groups for free from the City of Homestead Downtown Historic District to both national parks. The service will kick off this winter season and be available on the weekends during the parks’ high season months of the fall and winter, from approximately November to May.
“Everglades National Park is thrilled to be part of this innovative free trolley program approved last week by the City of Homestead,” said Everglades Superintendent Dan Kimball. “The trolley offers an exciting new public transit option for citizens and visitors to access the park during the upcoming winter season. We are working closely with city staff, the National Parks Conservation Association, and Biscayne National Park to make this an outstanding example of partnering with national park gateway communities.”
The program will take advantage of the newly expanded City of Homestead trolley fleet of four vehicles procured by federal grants, and will be funded by the Miami-Dade County People Transportation Plan half penny sale tax whose purpose is to fund transportation related projects including developing public transportation programs. City of Homestead staff will be working with the National Parks Conservation Association, national parks staff, and community stakeholders to develop the official routes, which will include a stop at the Everglades National Park Ernest Coe Visitor Center and the Anhinga Trail, as well as Biscayne National Park Dante Fascell Visitor Center, from where visitors can rent a kayak or canoe to explore the park. The City of Homestead Historic Downtown departure and return stop will also be connected to Miami-Dade County Public Transportation routes.
"I am delighted with this new opportunity to provide our neighbors, friends and worldwide visitors with improved and much needed access to the wonders of Biscayne National Park via the new Homestead trolley route," said Biscayne National Park Superintendent Brian Carlstrom.
Approved by the City of Homestead City Council last Tuesday, August 13 during a Committee of the Whole public meeting, this program was proposed by Councilman Stephen R. Shelley, who developed the idea with the National Parks Conservation Association and Everglades and Biscayne National Parks.
“Historically Homestead has always been a partner of the two National Parks that surround our great city. We are working towards strengthening that partnership, first through the designation of the City of Homestead as the Gateway to Biscayne and Everglades National Parks and now through the creation of a breakthrough program that will allow free public transportation to both of our nearby national parks,” said Councilman Stephen R. Shelley, an avid outdoorsman who spends much of his free time fishing or engaging in photography inside Everglades and Biscayne National Parks. He is also a member of the Board of Directors for the Everglades Association and of the Youth Fishing Foundation. “We are one of the only cities in America located between two national parks, and as a result, we have an exciting opportunity to capitalize on the eco-tourism dollars generated by our location to such unique ecosystems by bringing visitors and tourists to our city and to our majestic national parks.”
According to the National Park Service, recreational and eco-tourism activities related to Everglades and Biscayne National Parks contribute millions of dollars each year to our local economy.. Every year, close to a million people visit Everglades National Park and spend more than $146 million, supporting nearly 2,000 local jobs in South Florida. Biscayne National Park, the largest marine park in the national park system, is also a global destination which welcomes half a million national and international visitors annually who spend more than $34 million supporting more than 400 local jobs in South Florida.
“We applaud the Homestead City Council and especially Councilman Shelley for their leadership that will enhance Homestead’s successful trolley service to include a recreational trolley route that will provide the only public transportation to Everglades and Biscayne National Parks,” said Senior Program Coordinator for the National Parks Conservation Association Jacqueline Crucet. “Not only will this recreational trolley route provide the local community access to the national parks in their own back yard, it will also draw visitors and tourists from the larger urban areas of Miami to our national treasures. National parks are economic generators for gateway communities. The City of Homestead understands this and their investment in our national parks is an investment in their city as well.”