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Natural Areas Program

The Royal Palm Audubon Society in Boca Raton began an initiative in 1983 to protect an example of each native ecosystem in Palm Beach County, called “wilderness islands” because they are surrounded by development. In 1984 the society and others formed the Coalition for Wilderness Islands and persuaded the Board of County Commissioners to inventory the ecosystems, which was done by Drs. Grace Iverson and Dan Austin of Florida Atlantic University.

Three examples each of six types of ecosystems were selected for the Natural Areas Program, to be preserved through management by the county’s Department of Environmental Resource Management, established in 1987, and Park System. To acquire the properties, Palm Beach County voters approved the $100 million Environmentally Sensitive Lands Bond Referendum in 1991, and the $150 million Conservation and Open Space Bond Referendum in 1999. Additional support came from many organizations, municipalities, businesses, and individuals. Today 35 Natural Areas have been acquired, many of them with facilities for public use either in place or planned.


John D. MacArthur Beach State Park 

Before he died, John D. MacArthur donated 437 acres on Singer Island to Palm Beach County for use as a public park, from Riviera Beach’s city limits north to Lost Tree Village, and from Lake Worth to the Atlantic Ocean. The county sold the property to the State of Florida, which opened John D. MacArthur Beach State Park in 1989 with contributions from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. The park’s William T. Kirby Nature Center was named for the attorney that created the foundation and served as its board chair, who died in 1990.



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