Life is a journey, and we are all pilgrims traveling its varied paths.
I am spending my last week of summer at a Natural Science Education Training workshop at the John D. MacArthur Beach State Park. Chris and I have been going there for years to help with beach clean-ups, planting plants to help prevent erosion, Family Fun days, Eagle Scout projects and troop camping trips, or just with the family to have fun. I have heard family members talk about the park over the years, and I know some general facts, just not the historical details. So I decided to change that.
The park as a whole is 438 acres and stretches for 1.6 miles along the coastline. In my mind I have always divided it into two parts. The first part is the main park which spans across the estuary boardwalk to the beachfront. This was bought by John D. MacArthur in the 1950’s. MacArthur donated part of the land to the Florida Parks system in the 1970’s when the land was found to be contain as many as four different ecosystems: maritime hardwood, estuary, beach and dune, and rock reef. The park itself opened up in 1989. It now contains the last hardwood hammock in Palm Beach County.
There are nature trails, picnic areas, and a playground near the parking lot. If you want to escape the Florida sun you can go to the nature center and visit the gift store. On the weekends there may be a concert scheduled in the covered pavilion. A walk across the estuary will take you to the beach for prime snorkeling, diving, or sunbathing. If you visit the park during the nesting season, you can see turtle nests.
If being out on the water is what you like, you can rent kayaks and tour the estuary while observing manatees, fish, and birds. The park is a sanctuary for all kinds of wildlife. Head to the south and turn west under the Alt A1A bridge you will find yourself moving towards Munyon Island, the second part of the park.
At the turn of the century, Munyon Island was owned by Dr. James Munyon who built the five story Hotel Hygeia. The hotel catered to wealthy northerners who came to Florida during the winter months to recuperate from different ailments. The hotel burned down in 1917 and the island has remained uninhabited since then. MacArthur purchased the island in the 1950’s and the island went to the park system in the 1970’s. The Island has a nature trail and boat docks on the intercoastal waterway side of the island with nearby picnic benches.
If you go to the park’s website, locate the calendar to find the schedule of events so you can plan your trip. http://www.floridastateparks.org/MacarthurBeach/default.cfm