The City of Homestead has historically been a partner of the two national parks that surround its City limits. This partnership has now been made official with a newly approved resolution that recognizes the City of Homestead as “The Gateway to the Everglades and Biscayne National Parks.”
The resolution, which was approved by the Homestead City Council during the March 20th Homestead City Council Meeting, was proposed by Councilman Stephen R. Shelley who developed the idea along with the National Park Conservation Association. The new tagline brands the City of Homestead as a partner of our national parks that shares the common goal of increasing tourism and awareness about the unique natural resources in the South Dade area.
“We are one of the only cities in America located between two national parks, we have an exciting opportunity to capitalize on the eco-tourism dollars generated by our unique ecosystems,” said Councilman Stephen R. Shelley, an avid outdoorsman who spends much of his free time fishing or engaging in photography inside the Everglades and Biscayne National Park. He is also a member of the Board of Directors for the Everglades Association and of the Youth Fishing Foundation. “Solidifying our historic partnership with the Everglades and Biscayne National Park through this resolution makes our shared mission with the parks of tourism and conservation even stronger.”
According to the National Park Service, recreational and eco-tourism activities related to the Everglades and Biscayne National Parks contribute millions of dollars each year to the local economies of the surrounding communities. 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. According to the Mather Economics study, the projected recreational economic impact of a restored Everglades ecosystem over the next 50 years is in excess of $16 billion for park visitation, commercial and recreational fishing and wildlife viewing and hunting; and over $46 billion when including other non-recreational economic benefits. Biscayne National Park is also a global destination which welcomes half a million national and international recreation visitors annually who spend more than $30 million supporting more than 500 local jobs in South Florida.
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. These two national parks also provide Homestead residents easy access to nature and outdoor recreational and educational activities such as fishing, birding, kayaking and camping.
“For decades the City of Homestead’s local businesses have hosted millions of national park visitors, local residents have enjoyed a wealth of recreational opportunities, and local students have studied globally significant ecosystems on field trips,” said Biscayne National Park Superintendent Brian Carlstrom.“An official designation as a gateway community to Biscayne and Everglades National Parks will enhance the city’s identity, draw tourism, and boost its economy.”
Additionally, the City of Homestead is continuing to work with the National Park Service, Miami-Dade County, the State of Florida and Federal Government to secure funding to construct the Biscayne-Everglades Greenway project. The Biscayne-Everglades Greenway project is a 42 mile round trip bicycle path that will connect Biscayne National Park with Everglades National Park. The Greenway project, which was first developed by Homestead Councilwoman Judy Waldman, would be the first and only bike trail in the U.S. to connect two national parks and would have an immediate economic impact to Homestead and the surrounding communities.
“We applaud the Homestead City Council for declaring the City of Homestead as the gateway community, connecting urbanites to Everglades and Biscayne National Parks,” said Kahlil Kettering, Biscayne restoration program analyst for the National Parks Conservation Association. “National parks are economic generators, serving as living classrooms that tell our shared American heritage and are great places to have fun. By 2030, 85 percent of all Americans will live in urban areas and gateway communities like Homestead are vital for engaging and inspiring the next generation of park stewards at Everglades and Biscayne National Parks.”