There’s now a way to explore a tropical hardwood hammock preserve in Kendall. Awinding 1.5-mile pathway through a heavily wooded section of Indian Hammocks Park, 11395 SW 79 St., was opened June 12 by Parks and Recreation Department personnel who took the initial walk along with a crew from Longhorn Steakhouse whose parent company, Darden Foundation, contributed to the development.
In addition, volunteers from the West Kendall steakhouse along with high school students from Terra Environmental Research Institute helped restore trail portions previously inaccessible.
The environmentally oriented highschool that adjoins the southeast corner of Indian Hammocks Park graduated its first senior class in June following a 2009 opening.
Volunteer workdays included a special group of biology-oriented Terra seniors who helped study and distribute more than 1,000 air potato leaf-eating beetles to keep the trail from invasive vine entanglements.
Under a proposed redevelopment plan, the Parks Department has partnered with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and its Plant Research Laboratory to test the use of a beetle species that thrives on the potato leaf.
Funding for the trail project was aided by a $15,000 Great American Trails grant from Darden Foundation and the National Recreation and Park Association. Indian Hammocks is one of eight parks in the nation to receive the grant for trail refurbishments and enhancements.
Included in the project were trailhead improvements, including a shelter with directional signage and interpretative trail markers, designating the tree, plants and wildlife that abound in the area.
In a celebration program, Maria Nardi, Parks’ Planning and Research Division manager, paid tribute to the volunteers and students who spent workdays in April and May opening the trail that parallels the park’s 36-hole Disc Golf course.
The 116.5-acre park was carved from 285 acres of farmland purchase by the county in 1917 and until recent years had remained in its natural state most of that time. The undeveloped area of nearly two-thirds’ of the park’s total area stretches north to SW 76th Street between 107th and 117th avenues and has remained a dense forest of tropical trees and growth except for the southern section that fronts on SW 80th Terrace along with several county facility uses.
“The upkeep of a trail infrastructure is a costly undertaking,” noted Parks Department director Jack Kardys. “Thanks to the NRPA, Darden Foundation and Longhorn Steakhouse of Kendall, visitors can enjoy the peaceful beauty and natural wonders of a native Florida forest trail.
Indian Hammocks Park hours are 7 a.m. to sunset; office hours are 9-6, Monday through Sunday. For information on the new trail, call 305-596-9324.