BEST PUBLIC PARK - 2003
Gardens of Crandon Park
Readers' Choice: Readers Choice: Crandon Park
This is a park within a park, and it has an identity all its own. In 1980, when Metrozoo pulled out of its 30-acre facility at the south end of Crandon Park, it left behind cages, pathways, several large ponds, meandering lagoons, and a colony of iguanas. Years of neglect transformed the place into a wild jungle populated by a variety of waterfowl and a vastly larger colony of iguanas, some of which grew to enormous size. A group of devoted park advocates, led by the tireless Valerie Cassidy, took it upon themselves to transform the old zoo once again, but this time into a magnificent garden. They formed the Gardens of Crandon Park Foundation and went to work raising money and mucking around in the dirt. Slowly they redeemed the landscape and diversified the waterfowl population. The iguanas continued to thrive. Eventually the county, which owns the property, acknowledged its responsibility and joined the foundation's volunteers in refurbishing the grounds. The results have been nothing short of spectacular. Today it is a wonderful place for a stroll, a bike ride, or a picnic. The birds alone are worth a visit -- not to mention the iguanas. You'll recognize Valerie Cassidy by her trademark yellow BMW, always parked under a tree near the entrance. Take a moment to thank her.