I can hear the cicadas ringing in my ears. A bead of sweat runs down my temple, and I don’t budge to wipe it away. My dog is panting. I am panting. We went for a long, sweaty jog. I sip my water as she sniffs the grass and barks at the sunset cruisers on the Intracoastal. The sky is lit with purples, pinks, oranges, and blues; the picturesque Floridian, summer sky. It is June 21st; the first day of summer. It’s when the mangoes are so ripe that the nectar drips down to your elbows. It’s when the oranges are sugar sweet and you drink the juice by the gallon. It’s the time of year when the watermelon tastes the best and the music sounds the best and the sun couldn’t get any hotter but it’s okay because it’s summer. It’s the time of year when you know life just can’t get any better.
Hugh Taylor Birch State Park on Ft. Lauderdale Beach reminds me of the smell of sunscreen. The kind that you lather over yourself so you can spend all day walking with the dogs and biking and running and kayaking. Birch state park, thank you for giving me so many memories. Thank you for the memories from my childhood of running in family 5k’s and volunteering in the 40-degree weather while passing out water to the marathoners. Thank you for providing cross country races and attacking me with bees. I’m not mad that you attacked me by bees; I forgive you. Thank you for always being there for me when I needed a place to clear my thoughts by the water with my pooch. You gave me a place to see banana spiders and have barbeques and run my first half marathon. You gave me nature in a concrete jungle.
You have been there from the very beginning. Ever since Hugh Taylor Birch found you, you have stayed intact. He never wanted to sell you because he knew you were priceless. Turning down $250,000, Mr. Birch donated you to the state park system of Florida, which I can’t thank him enough for. Without you, we would have seven more high rises, or a monstrous parking garage, and another strip mall of t-shirt shops. Without you, I wouldn’t know what to do on my Saturday afternoon. Without you, I wouldn’t have a place to escape the beach goers and the traffic and noise pollution. Thank you for being my Floridian landmark.
Birch State Park is one of the only state parks in Fort Lauderdale; one that needs to be cherished and protected. It is a haven for flora and fauna like snakes, spiders, squirrels, beautiful trees, turtles, butterflies, ducks; you name it. We need to keep you alive and well, Birch and, boy, will I try. Thank you for the memories, they mean more than you know. This is why I #LoveFlorida.
I know I can always count on you.