Land, Land Everywhere – But What To Do With It?

Introductory Note:

The following is the final post in a three-part series of blogs exploring the State Archives’ recent accession of records concerning the Cross Florida Barge Canal and its eventual conversion into the Cross Florida Greenway. Here are the first and second posts.

Engineers and government officials have been hatching plans to dig a canal connecting the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean since the 16th century. The United States government initiated construction on this ambitious project in the 1930s, but it was halted several times over the next three decades before it was shut down entirely in 1971. The land appropriated for the canal was later converted into the Cross Florida Greenway, a series of recreational trails extending from the Gulf of Mexico to the St. Johns River.

The State Archives’ recent accession of records on this topic consists of 167 boxes of material, including administrative files, reports, legal records, land records, Canal Lands Advisory Council records and Cross Florida Greenway records. These documents join five existing series of Cross Florida Barge Canal records accessioned in the 1990s and early 2000s. Taken together, these collections illustrate the creation, progression, decline and eventual transformation of the Cross Florida Barge Canal project into the Cross Florida Greenway.

 

“Land, Land Everywhere… But What Do We Do With It?”

After President Richard Nixon halted the canal project by executive order in 1971, advocates tried unsuccessfully for several years to resuscitate it. Gradually, the focus of state officials and other interested parties turned toward deciding what to do with the large quantity of land that had been accumulated for the canal. The following records document the process of soliciting public input and determining the future of the Cross Florida Barge Canal corridor. All records are open for research.

 

Record Group 540: Florida Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission
Series 2045: Cross Florida Barge Canal Land Use Study Files

This series consists of minutes, studies, reports, correspondence, recommendations, editorials, etc. regarding proposals for use of land acquired for the discontinued Cross Florida Barge Canal project. The files were those of Colonel Bob Butler, retired regional director of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. The majority of the records are from 1992, but there are some from the late 1980s.

Cover of a proposal for an "Inland Waters Science Museum" to be located along the former canal corridor. This was one of several proposals for using the land reflected in the documents of Series 2045.

Cover of a proposal for an “Inland Waters Science Museum” to be located along the former canal corridor. This was one of several proposals for using the land reflected in the documents of Series 2045. Click the image to enlarge it.

 

Record Group 550: Florida Department of Environmental Protection
Series 2690: Canal Lands Advisory Council Administrative Files

Meeting files make up the majority of the series and include agendas, minutes, notices, photographs and other meeting specific supporting documents.

The administrative files make up the remainder of the series and consist of contracts, reports, maps, usage proposals, financial records, correspondence and various documentation concerning Canal Lands Advisory Committee activities and proposed uses of the former Cross Florida Barge Canal Lands.

It is worth noting University of Florida, Department of Landscape Architecture’s proposal for “Research and Technical Services in support of Alternative Land Use Plans for Canal Authority Properties.” The proposal names expert university faculty who would lead other professionals and graduate students in developing a “comprehensive plan for the design and management of a regionally significant green belt” as a joint project with the State of Florida’s Canal Authority. The proposal includes a contract which describes the precise responsibilities of the University and the Canal Authority, as well as the proposed budgets for each year of the two-year plan.

Transcript of an April 23, 1992 public hearing regarding the future of the Cross Florida Greenway, the new designation for the former Cross Florida Barge Canal corridor (Series 2690, State Archives of Florida).

Transcript of an April 23, 1992 public hearing regarding the future of the Cross Florida Greenway, the new designation for the former Cross Florida Barge Canal corridor (Series 2690, State Archives of Florida). Click the image to enlarge it.

 

Record Group 550: Florida Department of Environmental Protection
Series 2688: Cross Florida Greenway Administrative Files

This series documents the administrative functions of the Cross Florida Greenway project. Three main administrative subseries exist within this series: meeting files, correspondence and subject files.

The meeting files include agendas, minutes and meeting specific supporting documents.

The correspondence subseries details general activities, events and issues handled throughout the project. Many of the records document the coordination of the greenway project and meetings internally by Department of Environmental Protection staff and externally with other stake holders. There are also letters from citizens and environmental groups that voice opinions on the future of Rodman Reservoir.

The subject files make up the majority of the series and include records on project committees, cost-benefit studies, implementation plans, liability insurance, grant funding, and site specific issues. Of particular interest are the trail land withdrawals which document the process of reevaluating private and state owned lands involved in the Cross Florida Barge Canal with landowners to determine which parcels would be included in the trail.

Proclamation by Governor Lawton Chiles declaring the Cross Florida Greenway State Recreation & Conservation Area an official Florida Greenway (Series 2688, State Archives of Florida).

Proclamation by Governor Lawton Chiles declaring the Cross Florida Greenway State Recreation & Conservation Area an official Florida Greenway (Series 2688, State Archives of Florida). Click the image to enlarge it.

 

Interested in browsing the Cross Florida Barge Canal records in person? Stop by the State Archives of Florida Reference Room between 9:00 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. Check out our website to plan your visit.