USGS Showcased at Dedication of New State Park
More than 400 people attended a ceremony dedicating the Alison Fahrer
Environmental Education Center and Windley Key Fossil Reef State Geological
Site near Islamorada in the middle Florida Keys on January 23, 1999. One
of only two State Geological Sites in Florida and the only place on Earth
where one can walk through an in-situ coral reef, the 32-acre parcel was
purchased in 1985 for $3.2 million through Florida's Conservation and
Recreation Land Program. The Park is operated by the Florida Park Service,
Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP), and Friends of the
Islamorada Area State Parks. The Environmental Education Center contains
a classroom/lecture facility and museum. Alison Fahrer, a former County
Commissioner, has worked tirelessly with volunteers to clean up the
abandoned quarry and install nature trails through the surrounding
tropical hardwood hammock. A bill passed by the State legislature provided
funds for construction of the center.
Display case: The geologic exhibit is constructed from the Key Largo Limestone
exposed in Windley Key quarry. The model, created by Dave Wegener (in
foreground), has eight interactive panels with laser lights.
The centerpiece of the museum is a "hands-on" model constructed of the
quarry limestone and donated by the USGS St. Petersburg Field Center.
Designed by Gene Shinn and built by Dave Wegener, the model depicts the
geologic evolution of the reefal Key Largo Limestone that forms the upper
and middle Florida Keys and is the counterpart to the modern offshore
reef tract currently being mapped by the St. Pete Center.
classic studies by Dr. John Edward Hoffmeister (University of Miami),
the 125-ka reef extends for more than 175 km along the Florida shelf,
is up to 55 m thick, and underlies the offshore living reefs.
Flagler, who built the Overseas Railway that once connected the Florida
Keys, first mined the Key Largo Limestone at Windley Key and adjacent
quarries in the early 1900s. The rock was used for commercial construction
purposes and decorative facing stone. Mining ceased in the early 1960s.
It was near the Windley Key quarry that the Flagler Station was located.
Use of the railroad ended in 1935 when a Category 5 storm swept the train
from the tracks, killing more than 400 people.
The excavated area of the
reef at Windley Key is an historic field-trip site that is visited annually
by hundreds of graduate students and geologists from around the world. The
Windley Key State Park and Environmental Center will be highly publicized
and are expected to become much more popular attractions. Through the
educational geologic exhibit, the USGS will receive ongoing exposure to
park visitors and field trip participants ranging from grade school students
to professional scientists. The new nature trails will also attract botanists
and biologists, but along the way, they will explore the intricate skeletal
patterns that make up the geologic framework of the ancient coral reef. Biology
and geology are as inextricably linked in the rock record of the fossil-reef
ecosystem as they are in the quarry environment of today.
Concept: The original conceptual drawing for the Windley Key geologic model. Click on
the figure above for a full-screen version with explanations of many of the
features of the model. [annotated schematic60KB]
Speakers at the ceremony included the Park Manager; Director of the FDEP
Division of Recreation and Parks; President of the Friends of the Islamorada
Area State Parks; Mayor of Islamorada Village of Islands; the Governor's Policy
Advisor for Everglades Restoration; Dr. Walt Schmidt, Chief Geologist of the
Florida Geological Survey; and Alison Fahrer. Among guests also honored for
development of the park were the Florida State Representative; Monroe County
Commissioner and Mayor Pro Tem; Chief and OMC Manager of Parks District 5;
the FDEP Assistant Director, architect, and construction project manager;
President of Wilderness Graphics; and members of the Mustard Seed
Foundation. Guests honored for active reef research in the Keys were Mrs.
J. Edward Hoffmeister, Gene Shinn, and Dr. Robert N. Ginsburg
(University of Miami). Others researchers present were Dr. H. Gray Multer
(retired, University of Miami), Dr. Peter Betzer (University of South
Florida, St. Petersburg campus), Don Hickey, Barbara Lidz, Chris Reich,
and Dave Wegener (USGS), and members of the National Audubon Society,
local environmental and commercial interests, and the public. An Honor
Guard composed of children from local Boy Scout and Girl Scout Troops
presented the colors.
As one Keys resident said, "I have learned more today from the model
exhibit than during the 20 years I've lived here!"
in this issue:
Cruise News: R/V Gilbert
USGS Showcased at State Park Dedication
Lecture: Lake Tahoe
NAS/NRC ReviewMenlo Park
Regional GIS Workshop
Tom Chase Memorial
Japanese Gas Hydrate Researchers Visit
Pat McCrory Visit
St. Pete Video Week
Arrivals & DeparturesMenlo Park
Arrivals & DeparturesWoods Hole
New Book by John C. Behrendt
February Publications List