Carol Rist, 12-9-1991
To The Editor:
Hugh Taylor Birch State Recreational Area in Fort Lauderdale is a treasure for all Floridians. It has enriched my life immensely. In Birch Park I ran in relay races as a Girl Scout, organized relay races as a den mother, saw my first spotted breasted oriole, and discovered what coastal dunes looked like before humans covered the shoreline with buildings. lam grateful to Hugh Taylor Birch for having given his winter home to the people of Florida. He was a truly generous man.
If Mr. Birch was generous to us, he was even more generous to Antioch College in Ohio. He willed his entire estate to Antioch. His Florida property, a small part of his estate, consisted of the property where the Galleria Mall is located, all the residential land around it, and the land between the Bartlett Estate and Granada Street. Antioch chopped down the mangroves, filled in the land, and sold it.
When Mr. Birch deeded his winter home to the people of Florida, he wanted to make sure that it would always be used as a park. He provided that the state should continue to “maintain said property as a State Park … and that in the event said property ceases to be used for the purposes aforesaid and is abandoned by the said Florida Board of Forestry and Parks, its successors and assigns, as a State Park, for any continuous period of one year, title thereto shall revert to and become a part of the corpus of the estate of the grantor herein.”
Antioch University has sued, claiming that Florida has abandoned the property for statepark purposes for more than one continuous year and hasn’t used the property in accordance with Mr. Birch’s intent. The suit asks the court to take this park away from the people of Florida and to give the property to Antioch.
What would Mr. Birch say about Antioch’s grab for more expensive Florida real estate? If he were to visit his former home and see Floridians discovering coastal dunes as they once were, enjoying a cookout under the majestic live oaks, or marveling at the beautiful birds that need this resting spot during their long migrations, he would join the many Floridians who have said to Antioch College:
“This park has never been abandoned by the people of Florida. Save yourself and us the expense of a lawsuit. Drop the lawsuit and instead rejoice with us that nestled among the high rises is a place of peace and beauty that belongs to all.”
CAROL B. RIST