Port Bougainville or rather Port B(as it is called by the park people) is where I am volunteering now 3 days a week. The area is now a 2400 acre state park and the official name is” Dagny Johnson Key Largo Hammock Botanical State Park”. Say What you say. The area lies to the north end of Key Largo, so if you are coming in from the mainland on route 1 you miss it, as you are entering Key Largo in the middle, and travel south. There is not much on the north end of Key Largo. That was not always the case.
Picture of the proposed development.
Port Bougainville was the name given to a giant condominium site, that started construction around 1980. It was to have 2800 units, a full marina, shopping malls, resturants, plus a town hall and fire department. Built in the medetarainian style with lots of waterways, canals, everything you could ever want, and that was the problem, it would bring in about 15,000 to 20,000 people. Way to many for the island to take. Before anyone really noticed about 400 acres of pristine hardwood hammock land was virtually destroyed. It was home to many endangered trees, bushs, schrubs and wildlife that was only here in the keys. A few miles of roads were put in, a full marina was dug , with a channel out to the ocean complete with docks, along with a huge clubhouse and a number of condo units built as models for the public to see. Almost all of this done without permits. Officials took little notice, until the paper did a series on the place and the public went wild. By 1984, after a long battle with the courts and the public, the investors for Port B had, had enough and funding stopped and the bank called in the loan. Almost overnight everything stopped and the state of Florida decided to buy it from the developer, along with a few other smaller projects that were in the works in the same area. Thus creating the large park of today. Over the years, the park has filled in most of the old marina, demolished all the buildings and let nature retake the area. Today, it is back to a tropical hardwood hammock, with over 70 rare species of trees and plants that only grow here, nowhere else in the US. Almost all of them from the west Indies brought here by migrating birds, over centuries. It is also home to a some rare animals only found here. Along with that it, is a migratory stop for thousands of birds flying south for the winter, and back north in the spring. Birders from all over the world come here in the winter months. This park has the last remaining large tract of hardwood hammock left in the keys.
That is where I work, I set up a table, and greet visitors to the park. I explain to them what it was going to be and now what it is. I point out what to look for and show them a few plants to look for. There are two miles of walking, biking trails, along with a large fountain area that is now a butterfly garden. I am enjoying working here very much and have learned a great deal in a short time. I am meeting people from all over the world. I am now referred to as Dagny Dave.
Me in uniform, Official ain’t I
The park enterance
This is who the park is named after.
Part of the main trail.
A side trail, with a coral wall built.
Some of the ancient coral fossils.
One of the manmade lagoons, all the others have been filled in.
The ocean meets the trail, the mangroves grow here at the waters edge.
Part of the trail flooded by the ocean, mangroves everywhere.
This picture is right at the ocean, where the mangroves grow, up the little rise is where the hardwood hammock lives and grows.
This used to be the main channel coming in ,now filled in.
One of the many anchors for the piers, they are about every 40 feet apart.
Here the channel has not been filled in, about 100 feet wide ,and 18 feet deep.
The channel as it comes to the ocean, blocked by pole pilings.
The channel meeting the ocean. Here there is also a primative campsite , paddlers can come to and stay over night.
Below are some of the rare plants, and trees.
This is a snow bush, when in full bloom it looks like a blizzard.
This is a wild coffee bush, has red berries, which can be dried to make coffee but very bitter. Back in the day they would also dry the leaves and boil it for a better tasting coffee.
This is a wild poienseti, all the ones we have today came from this one as a hybrid.
This is a jamican fish kill plant, it also grows to a tree over 40 feet tall. Back in the day the Jamicans would crush up the leaves and throw them in the water, soon fish would pop up stunned by the fragrance, easy pickings then.
Gumbo- Limbo tree, very prevalant here. It has very flakey bark, said to help in the aid of poisonwood, like a poison ivy. The wood was alos used in the early 1900’s to make almost all of the horses that were in a merry go round. The wood is very soft and carveable.
Scorpion tail bush
Zebra tailed butterfly
A tree snail, rare but around, he was about 4 inchs tall.
Two tree snails that have left there shell.