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Garden 487: John B. Pennekamp

Posted By Melissa Cubas, Tuesday, April 22, 2014

John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park 102601 Overseas Highway (MM 102.5) Key Largo, FL 33037

FLOR500 Gardens

Melissa Cubas


John D. Pennekamp was known for his work as a newspaper editor and a conservationist in the South Florida Region.  Although he began working as a newspaper writer, he devoted much of his free time to conservation and environmental causes in Florida.  Aside from his efforts in conserving the Everglades from overdevelopment, Pennekamp also opened a 75-mile onshore and offshore sea park in Key Largo, which was named John D. Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park.

Pennekamp moved from his birthplace of Cincinnati, Ohio to Miami when he was 28 years old to work for the Miami Herald, where he worked for fifty years as a newspaper editor, managing editor, and daily columnist.  When Pennekamp helped open the Everglades National Park in 1947, Key Largo was not included in those boundaries of the Everglades National Park.  By 1950, citizens of Key Largo began to grow concern for the conservation of the coral reefs of the area.  Being the first chairman of the Florida Board of Parks and Historic Memorials, Pennekamp used his credentials to lobby for the park’s creation.  By 1963, the park was opened and dubbed the area a state-controlled park and coral reefs off the Key Largo shore, a historic landmark and permanent preserve.

Many of us Floridians are familiar with the underwater statue of Jesus Christ in all His glory, surrounded by thousands of colorful fish and coral reefs.  I am lucky enough to spend almost every weekend in the keys with my boyfriend and his family who live just one mile marker away from John D. Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, so I saw fit to plant my seeds in the state park.  When entering John D. Pennekamp state park, there are tons of beautiful greenery and the ocean just a few steps in.  But I was walked, I noticed a small area that seemed overlooked by conservationist, so in my efforts to act as Pennekamp would, I decided to plant my seeds in the area that could use it.  Having visited the park multiple times, I was proud to engage in my conservationist acts and attempt to make the park even more beautiful.

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