Thursday, 27 March 2008

The Sunshine State (1st to 24th March)

What to say about Florida? Quickfire impressions may work best.

The best thing about Florida: the Everglades. Though significantly smaller in extent (< 30%) Everglades National Park, together with the neighbouring Big Cypress National Preserve, provide an excellent overview of subtropical wetlands. I'd never visited such swamp ecosystems before. I was particularly impressed by the coastal mangrove areas and by flooded big cypress forests. The latter were especially beautiful - although we did encounter our first snake there. I'm hoping that some of the photographs we took convey something of these areas. And, hopefully, the plans for at least partially restoring the regional runoff patterns will come to pass.

The worst thing about Florida: urban sprawl. This is a problem throughout much of the US (and the world in general), but the combination of a relatively long period of settlement with a relatively high state population had led to large parts of Florida displaying the worst aspects of US city "planning". Many of the towns we visited sprawled over several miles of low density shopping and housing districts. The ugliness of the sprawl was compounded by typically huge advertising billboards, which often spilled out of the towns into neighbouring rural or natural areas. The most striking example is the continuous urban strip running from Miami (which, to be fair, is structured like a "normal" high density city) up to West Palm Beach. Aside from the sprawl, this strip is also characterised by large numbers of gated communities, another of my personal bugbears.

Lots more to say about our trip, but I'll wait till I have photographs to add to the words.

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