Homestead Launches Free National Parks Trolley
About a year ago, the city of Homestead was designated "The Gateway To Biscayne and Everglades National Parks." This past weekend the city launched its first free, guided trolley ride into the parks, which the city hopes will see more local visitors with the start of the new service.
But on the trolley's first day there was a change of plans for the 1 p.m. ride to Biscayne National Park.
"This afternoon, because so many people were standing in the rain during the ceremony, we're going to have a second trolley behind us," tour guide Gary Bremen said to his passengers.
Homestead Vice Mayor Stephen Shelley says the city collaborated with the National Parks Conservation Association to get locals into the parks.
"For whatever reason, there's not as many locals that visit our parks," said Shelley. "Hopefully they'll fall in love with the park and start continually to go back there and they'll join the tourists also."
Eve Ligonde has been a resident of Florida City for seven years, but the weekend trolley ride was her first time going to the Everglades.
"I will go there quite often [now] because of my grandson -- he likes nature so I'll go with him so he can experience it," said Ligonde.
Biscayne and Everglades National Parks together have 1.5 million visitors a year -- many of which are tourists without cars.
"People who are cut off from public transportation just cannot get out to the parks because of the distance and remoteness of the parks," says Christiana Admiral, chief of interpretation at Biscayne National Park. "We will see people walking, attempting to reach the parks, and we worry about them getting dehydrated."
John Castro of Kendall said the trolley made it easy on his wife.
"She's almost 80 years old and it's hard for her to get around so this was an ideal situation," he says. "I'm having company from up north and we'll probably bring them down here because a lot of people never got to see any of this."