PARKS & RECREATION/Historic downtown park gets facelift
History was falling into disrepair in downtown Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Colee Hammock, site of an 1836 massacre and a park since 1934, was falling apart. The park is a favorite of the downtown lunch crowd, both for its historical value and for its shady expanses. So when the city’s voters approved a tax specifically for parks creation and improvement, there was no question that Colee Hammock would be one of the beneficiaries.
Colee Hammock had not been renovated in 30 years, and maintenance was minimal. Periodically replacing the historical marker constituted the most serious attention the park had commanded.
(The first marker, for Colee Hammock Park, allegedly honored William Cooley, who, with his wife, their three children and a tutor, was massacred by local Indians. The misspelling created some consternation, and some residents insisted the park was named for James Colee, a civil engineer who lived in the area. In 1959, the historical marker was replaced with one referring to Cooley Hammock Park, and, in 1971, that marker was replaced with one that acknowledged the discrepancies but returned the Colee name.)
Since the historical value of the park was an important consideration in its renovation, Peter Strelkow, a landscape architect for the city and the Colee Hammock project manager, was careful to honor it as he planned the overhaul. “We are trying to subtly beautify the park,” he told the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel. “We don’t want to change its character since it is an historical site.”
During the renovation, rotting benches and the park’s lighting system were replaced, trash receptacles were installed, and the edges of the park were planted with native plants designed to attract birds and butterflies. (The center of the park is primarily open space punctuated by ancient live oaks and palms.)
Additionally, Majestic Group Enterprises, the local general contractor that worked on part of the renovation, installed a cobblestone path throughout the park. City crews handled the landscaping and the replacement of the 1.8-acre park’s irrigation system. The project was completed for $122,000 – $8,000 under budget.