From Florida Task Force
“In some cases exotic vegetation is allowed to remain because it is historically accurate
and contributes to the character of a cultural landscape..."
Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park
The Nation's Southernmost Park
1845 - 1866
Construction of Fort
1861 - 1865
First dredge of the Channel area at Fort Taylor
Spanish American War
Fort manned by National Guard
Coastal guns removed & replaced with anti-aircraft guns
Introduction of the Australian Pine to Florida, brought from France by Dr. Walter T. Swingle, U.S. Department of Agriculture Plant Explorer.
(Source: J. Wash Acad. Sci 15(14): 345-46, 1925 Australian Pines were widely planted in Southern Florida, due to their high tolerance for brackish water and salt spray. They were brought to Lake Okeechobee and the Everglades by developers to “soak up the swamps”.)
The director of the Carnegie Laboratory on Loggerhead Key introduced Australian Pines to Fort Jefferson. These trees were planted at the Laboratory and propagated to Garden Key. (Source: Stoddart and Fossberg 1981, also NPS Bulletin- Dry Tortugas National Park by Tony Pernas, Brandon Gamble and Thomas V. Armentano, Winter 2001)
Increased construction and expansion of the military base areas. First expansion of fill was done, trees potentially brought into the area at this time. Please see Appendix A, maps of Fort Taylor.
First expansion of Coverface area at Sally port since Civil War Era. Australian Pines are being extensively planted in Key West providing much needed shade, wind breaks and holding the sand and fill that are adding to the island from the first dredging projects. They are selected because they are able to thrive in a hot, salt water dominate area; grow fast and tall (average 20-30 feet in 2 years).
Australian Pines are “Naturalized” to Florida, very successful adaptation to harsh environments noted. Citation: Proc. Fla. State Hort. Soc. 93:87-95
1931 - 1940
Fort Taylor was used by the National Guard for summer training, complaints of the heat and mosquitos. Stories told of meals under “the trees” to cool off.
1938 - 1939
FDR visits Key West Military Bases
1939 NOV 1
Reopening of Naval Air station Key West
First fill used to close causeway in, connecting it to the base. Used fill from Sub pens at Mole. Trees planted in area to create windbreak and to hold sand from erosion. By this time, the Australian Pine is one of the most widely planted trees in Florida.
1941 - 1945
Soldiers housed in tents on the Parade Ground in Fort Taylor, according to military folklore, many soldiers had hammocks in the trees behind the fort in an attempt to escape the heat. In WWII era, the military spent more than $31 million dollars on construction and facility upgrades.
7th Naval District re-established Headquarters in Key West; German submarines sunk ships within sight of land, peaked in May 1942 with the loss of 42 ships off the Florida Coast.
Transfer of Fort Taylor from the U.S. Army to the U.S. Navy
1951 - 1953
South side of former causeway to the corner of Osceola and Adair filled in and the North side of Fort filled in.
1954 - 1975
Fort utilized as a Storage and Salvage Yard for the Navy
Cuban Missile Crisis
1964 - 1965
Park built with dredge material from ship channel dredging project
Fill used from dredging the Harbor to accommodate larger ships to create boundaries that are seen today. Photo from shortly after fill completed, moat is not present.
Over the course of ten years, and under the leadership of Howard S. England, volunteers uncovered the largest collection of Civil War era armaments in the United States
1968 - 1976
Howard England excavations at Fort Taylor, removal of Australian Pines from the Parade ground and the North side of the Fort in 1972, due to large, deep roots and damage to brick structure and walkways. Although the Australian Pine is considered a “shallow root system” by virtue of not having a single tap root, these trees can make large root systems that will go as deep as necessary to find water. It is not unheard of for them to go 10’-15’ down and get into masonry.
1971 maY 11
Fort Zachary Taylor placed on National Register of Historic Places
1973 Dec 7
Fort Zachary Taylor declared a National Historic Landmark
1976 sept 1
President Ford signed the transfer of the property from the Department of the Interior to the State of Florida Park Service, creating Fort Zachary Taylor State Park, with the condition that the State should not change “the character of the grounds and structures.”
Officially became Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park
Moat placed along Fort walls, fill excavated from around the structure
Key West Tree Commission (including the late Merilee McCoy) insisted the pines were not a pest in this location. Mark Glisson, Director of the Bureau of Natural & Cultural Resources at the DEP, responded: “Due in large part to the local community support for the shade they provide and to the fact that they are growing on fill and do not pose a serious threat of spreading, there are not current plans for wholesale removal of Australian Pines at Fort Taylor’s beaches."
Old Town City Hall: Park Manager sponsoredan open-forum to discuss a slow removal of pines in phases along with the addition of pavilions and natives to replace the pine's shade. In the face of public outrage of a standing room only crowd, Park Manager said: “We will not go forward if there is a major opposition to removal of the pines at Ft. Taylor."
Trial area planted with natives
On June 15, Key West City Commission passed Resolution #04-13 which supports mature pines remaining at Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park and requested DEP to spare these magnificent trees.
Monroe County Board of Commissioners passed Resolution #271-2006, urging the state of Florida to "designate the canopy of Australian pines at Ft. Zachary Taylor State Park as an exception to any exotic and invasive removal programs and initiate maintenance and controlled growth replacement programs."
DEP cut down 99 Australian Pines, with plans to cut down 10% each year until trees were gone
2008 - 2011
As a result of Save Our Pines receiving overwhelming public and political support the State of Florida DEP and State Rep. Ron Saunders signed a Memorandum of Understanding on March 19th, 2008 allowing the Australian pines to remain.
At the request of Save Our Pines, DEP implemented a program of digital mapping for the pines, the conduct of annual condition surveys, and the issuance of annual reports.
DEP with the assitance of SOP began a pruning program for the nourishment and saftey of the pines.
DEP’s philosophy of resource management is natural systems management. Primary emphasis is on restoring and maintaining, to the degree practicable, the natural processes that shape the structure, function and species composition of Florida’s diverse natural communities as they occurred in the original domain. Single species management may be implemented when the recovery or persistence of a species is problematic provided it is compatible with natural systems management. Source: Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park Unit Management Plan, Approved by State of Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Division of Recreation and Parks, June 13, 2008
Save Our Pines tree adoption program inaugurated whereby patrons contribute towards the cost of maintaining our oversight of and communications about the health and future of the pines at Fort Taylor.
2012 - Present
Representative Holly Raschein succeeded Representative Ron Saunders as Florida District 120 Representative and reaffirmed support for the good work of Save Our Pines.
City Proclamation officially recognizes the third Sunday in March as Save Our Pines Day, effective as of 2015, and to be celebrated yearly.