The Zoo Page...
One of the first avian voices you'll hear in the audio portion of your disc is that of the Blue Crown Pigeon. Its' hollow thrumming is a treat to experience! A photo of the Argus Pheasant was chosen to appear on the cover. These are only two of the nearly 70 species of rare, exotic and often endangered Asian birds to inhabit the 'Wings of Asia' free flight aviary today. Population of the aviary varies. At this writing there are not less 200 individuals comprising some 69 species.
Miami Metrozoo is rooted many years past in the 'Crandon Park Zoo' dedicated on November 9th, 1947. The original zoo was located across the Rickenbacker Causeway and just outside the tiny village of Key Biscayne. In 1948 less than $300 enabled the zoo to acquire a goat, a few monkeys and a couple of black bears. The zoo grew steadily and eventually embraced some 1200 animals. The captive birth of an Aardvark brought worldwide distinction to the zoo in 1967. In the same year a breeding pair of Asian elephants were added to the collection (the male was named 'Dalip'). Species arrived apace: in 1968, a white tiger; in 1970 a pair of white Rhinoceros and a valued Key Deer; in 1973 two Bald Eagles. Quick to embrace the mantle of conservation, Crandon Park Zoo was soon exchanging species with other prominent institutions.
Key Biscayne grew mightily as did the zoo and it soon became apparent that the area was just too small and too pricey to occupy. In 1965 hurricane Betsy slammed the key killing 250 animals prompting talk of relocating the park.
When the great search had concluded the 'Crandon Park Zoo' was reborn and relocated to SW 152nd St adjacent to the Coast Guard barracks and to the Naval Air Station. A great perimeter moat surrounds the new 'cage less' Miami Metrozoo which opened to visitors in the summer of 1980. Zoo grounds occupy in excess of 600 acres with half the acreage remaining undeveloped. A monorail was constructed and numerous exhibits came on line over several years including a petting zoo, an African savanna, Asian river life, Australian wildlife and a remarkable free flight Asian aviary.
Hurricane Andrew decimated portions of South Florida in August of 1992. Included in the more than 30 billion dollars of hurricane damage was the flattened Asian aviary and most of its' 300 occupants. It was a heart rending time for all involved. Zoological Parks nationwide came together to offer whatever assistance they could provide. Dade County and the staff of Miami Metrozoo persisted in the awesome task of rebuilding.
It would be nearly 11 years before the aviary was rebuilt. Coordinated funding through the American Bankers Group and local businesses as well as support from the Zoological Society of South Florida enabled the newly redesigned 'Wings of Asia' exhibit to open in May of 2003. It is these pictures and sounds that appear on your disc.
Today the aviary is a marvelous experience! It's quite large with several water features and differing elevations. Be certain to bring your camera! Exotic cranes, ducks and pigeons stroll past calling in their unique voices. Parrots and doves all share the living space. There is a shallow pond with floating vegetation. One fascinating and uncommon display addresses the relationship between birds and dinosaurs. Informed attendants or docents are on hand to field questions that arise. Staffers 'feed out' three times daily remaining vigilant for the subtle indication of mating or nesting behaviors as well as injuries. It is a tremendous responsibility and such a worthwhile effort. The staff is to be commended. Bird species are so fragile and uniquely beautiful. They remind us that life itself is both delicate, diverse and thoroughly fascinating.
Miami Beach has been a favored tourist destination ever since John Collins opened his famous wooden bridge (Venetian Way) in 1913. The bridge was 2 miles long and connected mainland Florida with that strip of land now known as Miami Beach. Collins Avenue is still the name of the main beach thoroughfare. The warm sun and surf attracted the rich and powerful who left their legacy in the architecture; Fisher Island, the Julia Tuttle Causeway, Brickell Avenue, Matheson Hammock, Vizcaya, the James Deering Estate, the Arthur Godfrey Causeway... the list goes on! The relaxed style of living also attracted a goodly number of retirees resulting in the predominance of highrise condominium and retirement communities.
Always 'the magic city', Miami was the beneficiary of Henry Flagler's great vision to construct the 'Over Seas Highway' connecting together a number of causeways leading all the way to Key West some 160 miles to the South. The 'East Coast Railroad' reached Miami in 1896 and greatly improved access to the Florida peninsula. Construction techniques evolved to accommodate this new climate. By the late 50's renowned entertainer Jackie Gleason would broadcast his weekly variety show 'live from Miami Beach'. In the 60's and again in 1980 many thousands of Cubans were to arrive in South Florida and to make their presence known across the region.
It was in the mid 1930's that a new architectural style appeared. 'Art Deco' as it has been termed is today a feast for the eyes. No doubt Don Johnson and the 80's TV series 'Miami Vice' contributed to its' trendy appeal. Pastels in many colors highlight the unique architecture. Sometimes garish and certainly bright with apparent functional obsolescence (a true hallmark of fashion), the area is enjoying heightened international notoriety! From 6th street to 23rd street between Ocean Drive and Alton Road is that area commonly referred to as 'South Beach' (or 'SoBe'). This area is comprised of some 200 hotels constructed between 1935 and 1941. The buildings are 60 plus years of age and have survived demolition largely through the efforts of conservationists and historians. The 'Art Deco District' was placed into the National Registry of Historic Places in 1979.
South Beach remains an intriguing destination. The architectural whimsy in these structures is truly remarkable! Styles from the 30's and the 40's exist well along side the trendy fashions of today. Daytime is enhanced by the colorful skylines while the night reveals a similar neon dynamic. The area is seasoned with boutiques and restaurants and fashionable fun drinkeries like the 'Clevelander' and 'Mangoes' and 'The News Cafe'. It all exists opposite one of the widest and warmest beaches in the world. Morning joggers frequent the beach just as a continuous stream of onlookers congest Ocean Drive each evening.
Talented side walk performers pursue discovery in that so many of the powerful and the 'beautiful people' frequent the nights. It is a very crowded and pricey location and of course parking is at a premium. Your waiter, your waitress, your valet or your bartender may have a fabulous portfolio and awaits only that 'big break'.
John Cabot, a British explorer, is said to have discovered 'Cayo Biscayno' in 1497. This is only a few years after Columbus' discovery of the new world in 1492. However, it was Ponce de Leon who claimed the island for Spain in 1513 first naming it 'Santa Marta'. Biscayne Bay and the surrounding waters are precariously shallow, a characteristic it shares with the lower Keys. Numerous vessels large and small were to founder. Salvage divers continue to pursue sunken treasure even today.
Spanish seaman Don Pedro Vizcaino survived the wreck of an unnamed Spanish galleon in the mid 1540's. The tide carried him to the shore of an island where he was befriended by the inhabitants. These people were members of the Tequesta Indian tribe who were the first residents of this barrier island. Making their way over the surf in dug out canoes and subsisting largely upon the ocean's bounty, they constructed what might best be described as 'houses on stilts' reaching to the ocean floor. Don Pedro eventually took a wife and produced a son before returning to Spain where the tribe was referred to as the 'Viscaynos' Indians. The term eventually resolved in pronunciation to 'Biscayne'.
This continued loss of wealth rather impoverished the Spanish empire and Florida was eventually traded to England. Florida was traded back to Spain after the American revolution. By 1790 Spain was issuing land grants to colonists and would eventually trade ownership of Florida to the United States in 1821 for a reputed 5 million dollars in damages.
The US government would build the Cape Florida lighthouse in 1825 on land purchased from a colonist. The original lighthouse stood some 65' tall with the lighthouse keeper's accommodations built into the first floor. The structure was badly burned when several dozen Seminole Indians attacked on July 23rd of 1836. The lighthouse was eventually restored and improved and ultimately retired in favor of a newer design. It was on June 15th of 1878 that the Key Biscayne Lighthouse would last shine its' beacon to ships at sea. The apparatus was removed to Staten Island. A newer beacon was installed 100 years later (July 4, 1978) by the US Coast Guard. The Cape Florida Lighthouse is the oldest building in South Florida.
Prior to 1906 the Florida Everglades extended fully across the state and only a scant three miles west of Key Biscayne. If not for a series of dredging, South Beach and the entire coast might still be a mangrove swamp. Contemporary history of the island truly begins in 1909 with the efforts of William Matheson. It is his vision that transformed Key Biscayne into the island paradise of today. He planted a large coconut plantation and constructed miles of roads. His estate was named for his daughter 'Mashta' (an Egyptian term meaning 'home by the sea').
Key Biscayne is Americas' Southernmost barrier Island. Only slightly larger than Key West it has become a most elite residential address. Property values have skyrocketed from the early 20th century price of $9000 each. Homes of $8 Million or more and high rise condominiums valued at many hundreds of thousands exist today. The Rickenbacker Causeway (named after Captain Eddie Rickenbacker) opened on November 9, 1947. It is a pleasant toll road and links together miles of bridge and land to transport you across Biscayne Bay. This causeway is home to the Miami Seaquarium. It is a favorite destination of windsurfers and beach lovers each weekend. The causeway eventually becomes Crandon Blvd (the islands main thoroughfare) and leads you directly to Bill Baggs State Park home of the Cape Florida Lighthouse. The park is named after Miami News editor Bill Baggs who fought hard for conservation of the area and its' historic lighthouse.
Key Biscayne became a city on the 18th of June in 1991. Not unexpectedly several upscale hotel chains have taken up residence. The Grand Bay (a private club) has appeared as well as a Ritz-Carlton location. The Sonesta Beach Hotel is a favorite of both European travelers and locals as well. The private 'Key Biscayne Yacht Club' has existed for many years and remains a vibrant social venue. The Sheraton Key Biscayne was thoroughly destroyed when hurricane Andrew blasted South Florida in 1992.
The Key Biscayne Tennis Center once hosted the 'Lipton Tennis Open' (now named after its' current sponsor the 'Ericson International'). The 'Links at Key Biscayne' continues to be a world class golf destination hosting the Royal Caribbean Golf Classic. Richard Nixon once maintained a winter residence on the island in the late 60's. The Marjorie Stoneman Douglas Biscayne Nature Center is located here as well as the Crandon Park Marina.
For additional or updated information visit the Key Biscayne website at www.key-biscayne.com .
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