Everglades Holiday Park
Everglades Holiday Park (EHP) is a wildlife preserve and theme park situated on 29 acres of wetlands in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The park is located on the western end of Griffin Road, off U.S. 27 and always open to the public. Nicknamed the “Gateway to the Everglades”, the park offers narrated airboat rides, live alligator shows, fishing, wildlife viewing and a campground which is currently under renovation.[when?] EHP is also known for hosting a number of educational and conservation programs and having the only Broward County access to the Everglades. Bass fishing tournaments are hosted on the grounds regularly, with most winners weighing in at over 25 pounds, and duck hunters access the marshes during duck season. Since its founding in 1983, Everglades Holiday Park has provided an educational and entertainment service to visitors of the largest subtropical wilderness in the United States.
George M. Bridges was a tobacco farmer with a background in construction. In 1982, he decided to pursue a new career and built his own airboat in the backyard. Mortgaging his house, Bridges invested all his money and time into building more airboats and starting an educational and recreational park ground. Bridges began offering narrated airboat tours through the Everglades and by June 1982, Everglades Holiday Park was officially operating. The park is family run, with George's son, Clint, overseeing the day-to-day operations.
The land now occupied by Everglades Holiday Park was originally owned by domestic profit corporation Davie Farm Lands, Inc and deeded to Broward Country in 1964. The deed stipulated that the land's sole use be for "public recreation purposes". Broward County entered into a Long Term lease agreement with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) in 1965. The property was then subleased until 3 June 2012 when the FWC returned the park to Broward County. It has since operated through the county's Parks and Recreation Division. Bridges, Inc has been the park's primary concessionaire since initiating a lease in 1992. The county and Everglades Holiday Park are assessing the land for renovations and further expansion.
Multiple government and recreation departments are looking to Everglades Holiday Park to expand and accommodate a wider range of programs. Residents raised concerns that the integrity and authenticity of the park would be compromised if the grounds were updated, but the county and locals are working together on a master park plan to preserve the history and aesthetics of the land. Proposed additional facilities and renovations include: green (eco) buildings, cement parking areas, bridges for easier transportation, additional restrooms, air conditioned cabins for rental, trails, an updated campground, zip line, and a rock climb.
Everglades Holiday Park is the home of the Gator Boys Alligator Rescue and educates the public about the ongoing conservation and preservation efforts in the Everglades. The team of gator trappers capture and rescue nuisance alligators from residential areas surrounding the Everglades and release them at the park. The park provides a protected habitat for gators which could otherwise be killed for their skin or meat. The rescue members are part of a TV show on Animal Planet called Gator Boys and film many of their episodes at the park.
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