Homestead starts trolley service to national parks

Homestead will soon offer free public transportation to both Everglades National Park and Biscayne National Park.

This trolley program will be the first of its kind to allow anyone to take a free ride to the two national parks, said Begoñe Cazalis, a city spokeswoman.

The program was proposed by Homestead Councilman Stephen Shelley at an Aug. 13 City Council meeting.

“We are one of the only cities in America located between two national parks, and as a result, we have an exciting opportunity to capitalize on the ecotourism dollars generated by our location to such unique ecosystems by bringing visitors and tourists to our city and to our majestic national parks,” Shelley said.

You can catch the trolley in Homestead’s historic downtown, which connects to the county bus system, making it possible to get to the parks no matter where you are in the county.

Homestead is less than 10 miles away from both parks.

The service will start before the parks’ busy season, which is between November and May, according to a press release. The city has not yet determined the precise start date.

Cazalis said she suspects people who are visiting the area in winter without a car could use a service like this to get to the parks.

Homestead has just expanded its trolley fleet to accommodate the new program. The city purchased four new vehicles with federal grant money and money from Miami-Dade County’s half-penny sales tax for transportation.

"I am delighted with this new opportunity to provide our neighbors, friends and worldwide visitors with improved and much needed access to the wonders of Biscayne National Park via the new Homestead trolley route," said Brian Carlstrom, the Biscayne National Park superintendent.

According to the National Park Service, about a million people visit Everglades National Park and spend more than $146 million every year, which supports nearly 2,000 jobs in South Florida. Biscayne National Park, welcomes 500,000 national and international visitors annually, who spend more than $34 million, which supports more than 400 jobs in South Florida.

“Not only will this recreational trolley route provide the local community access to the national parks in their own back yard, it will also draw visitors and tourists from the larger urban areas of Miami to our national treasures,” said Jacqueline Crucet, senior program coordinator for the National Parks Conservation Association.

The National Parks Conservation Association along with the local parks staff hope to make the trolley experience educational by providing a tour guide on each trolly, Cazalis said.

“National parks are economic generators for gateway communities. The city of Homestead understands this, and their investment in our national parks is an investment in their city as well,” Crucet said.

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