With these words, President Harry S Truman formally dedicated Everglades National Park on December 6, 1947 in a ceremony held at Everglades City. This event culminated years of effort by a dedicated group of conservationists to make a national park in the Florida Everglades a reality.
The early movement to protect a segment of the Everglades coincided with the settlement and growth of South Florida, as people began to recognize the uniqueness of the watery wilderness. In 1916, the Royal Palm State Park, on Paradise Key, was created as the first protected area in the Everglades. This 4,000 acre (1619 hectare) tract later became the nucleus of Everglades National Park.
Through the 1920's, the idea of a national park began to take shape. Stephen T. Mather, the first Director of the National Park Service, reported to the Secretary of the Interior, "There should be an untouched example of the Everglades of Florida established as a national park." The year was 1923. In south Florida, local efforts to campaign for a national park in the Everglades were also underway. Ernest F. Coe, a Yale-educated landscape architect, made the Everglades park project his life work shortly after moving to Miami in 1925. In 1928, Coe and others organized the Tropical Everglades Park Association (later known as the Tropical Everglades National Park Association), devoted solely to the creation of a national park in south Florida. Dr. David Fairchild, the former head of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Bureau of Plant Exploration, was the association's first president; Coe was named executive secretary. The following year, the Florida legislature authorized the Tropical Everglades National Park Commission to take over the responsibilities of the Tropic Everglades National Park Association and with the power to acquire land by purchase, gift, bequest or condemnation. Ernest Coe was the commission's executive chairman. Also in 1929, the U.S. Congress authorized an investigation into the feasibility of a national park project in South Florida. A special committee of the National Parks Association, which included NPS Director Horace Albright, Assistant Director Arno B. Cammerer and Yellowstone superintendent Roger Toll, toured the area by auto, boat, and Goodyear blimp, with local park advocates, including Ernest Coe, David Fairchild, Dr. T. Gilbert Pearson -- president of the National Association of Audubon Societies, and Ruth Bryan Owen -- the U.S. representative to Congress from Miami. Upon their return to Washington, D.C., the committee reported favorably to Congress on the proposed park:
We are compelled to admit that in a good deal of the Everglades region, especially in those parts now readily accessible by road, the quality of the scenery is to the casual observer under most conditions somewhat confused and monotonous. Its beauty in the large is akin to that of the other great plain: perhaps rather subtle for the average observer in search of the spectacular; though sometimes very grand, especially when seen in solitude and at rest instead of from a hurrying automobile....
On May 30, 1934, an Act was passed authorizing a park of 2,164,480 acres (875,953 hectares) to be acquired through public or private donation. Everglades National Park was to be "... wilderness, (where) no development ... or plan for the entertainment of visitors shall be undertaken which will interfere with the preservation intact of the unique flora and fauna of the essential primitive natural conditions now prevailing in this area." This mandate to preserve wilderness is one of the strongest in the legislative history of the National Park System.
Over the next ten years little progress was made towards making the park a reality. In 1944, Congress authorized the establishment of a national wildlife refuge to provide some measure of protection to the area. In 1946, the Florida Legislature appropriated $2 million for the purchase of certain private lands in the Everglades. These land acquisitions, along with the donation by the State Federation of Women's Clubs of the Royal Palm State Park, led to President Truman's dedication of Everglades National Park on December 6, 1947.