Thousands of round, shiny quarters bearing symbols of Everglades National Park are now circulating pockets and cash registers through Florida and across the United States.
At a launch ceremony Thursday in Homestead, officials from the U.S. Mint, the National Parks Service and the city of Homestead launched the new quarter to a crowd of roughly 300 school children, coin collectors and area residents.
On its back, the new quarter bears an anhinga, a water bird, drying its wings on a willow tree. Behind it stands a roseate spoonbill.
“The anhinga is iconic, and the back is emblematic of Everglades National Park,” said Linda Friar, who works at Everglades National Park coordinating public affairs. “It was perfect.”
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Everglades National Park is 1.5million acres of preserved Florida wetlands closed off to development but open to curious visitors. The park holds hundreds of species of wading birds, and is home to both the American crocodile and alligator.
It was established as a protected national park Dec. 6, 1947, 67 years ago to the day.
“I was a little kid when they opened Everglades. I took a bus from school to the park for the ceremony,” said Marie Conway, who has lived in Homestead her whole life.
She attended the event at Harris Field hoping to get her hands on the new quarter.
“I think the coin portrays a good part of the Everglades. It’s marvelous,” she said.
The coin is part of the America the Beautiful Quarters Program, an initiative passed by Congress in 2008 instructing the mint to create a coin for a national park or other national site in each state and U.S. territory.
Everglades National Park was one of the sites proposed by Gov. Rick Scott, and the design was the result of input from various sources. The coin is the 25th quarter in the series.
“Coins are something that you have in your pocket to spend. But if we study them closely, you realize that in the design there is a lot of cultural significance,” said Beverly Babers, chief administrative officer of the mint.
Twelve local schools were invited to the event, and every student was given a new quarter. Charles Solano, 11, from Coconut Palm K-8 Academy, waited in line to purchase more quarters.
“I thought it was a cool coin, and it’s new,” Solano said. “I want to get another one in case I lose this one.”
In the crowd were also many coin collectors, hoping to trade cash for rolls of the new coin.
Wayne Michaels, 68, drove from his home in Key Largo.
“I go all over the place. This one was close to home,” Michaels said.
The coin is part of a larger push to get people out to the park.
Last month, the city of Homestead approved funding to expand its Homestead Trolley, which takes visitors from Losner Park in historic downtown Homestead to Everglades National Park, as well as Biscayne National Parks and Homestead Bayfront Park.
Every Saturday and Sunday until April 26, visitors can ride the trolley free of charge. As part of the expansion, a second trolley will be running during peak hours.
“It gets people to the parks that otherwise would have no access, and it increases community awareness of the parks,” said Homestead Vice Mayor Stephen Shelley.
The program was rolled out last January and by the end of the month the city had tallied 1,151 riders. Rides went into recess at the end of April. By then the trolley had given rides to 4,773 people.
"By the end of the season, we were standing room only,” Shelley said.
Rides start at 7:45 a.m. For a schedule visit the city’s website at www.cityofhomestead.com.
Friar said that roughly 75 percent of visitors to the park come from abroad, but hopes that increasingly, locals will join in too.
“We’re really trying to bring back the community,” Friar said. “Pack up your family. Come see the wildlife. It’s like National Geographic in your backyard.”
If you go
Everglades National Park
Open 24 hours a day. For more information contact 305-242-7700 or visit www.nps.gov/ever/
Losner Park to Everglades National Park
7:45 am | 10:30 am | 11:55 am | 1:55 pm | 3:20 pm
Anhinga Trail to Downtown Homestead
8:55 am | 11:40 am | 1:05 pm | 3:05 pm | 4:30 pm | 5:15 pm
Losner Park to Biscayne National Park
9:35 am | 11:00 am | 1:00 pm | 2:25 pm
Biscayne National Park to Downtown Homestead
10:00 am | 11:25 am | 1:25 pm | 2:50 pm | 4:10 pm
Homestead Bayfront Park to Downtown Homestead
10:05 am | 11:30 am | 1:30 pm | 2:55 pm | 4:15 pm
For more information contact 305-224-4457 or visit www.cityofhomestead.com/gateway