Sunday, June 15, 2014

Stranahan Park...Public or Private?

The Hate Laws are still in hiding for the  month of June. So we thought we'd take some time to settle an annoying and chronic question: "Is Stranahan Park a public park?"


A Brief History of Stranahan Park

For thousands of years the Tequesta people lived in South Florida, but disease brought by the Spanish and migration saw the area virtually uninhabited by the time of the "Seminole." The Seminole Indians were originally displaced tribes and marooned slaves who fled to Florida in the early 19th century. After the Seminole Wars, it is thought that only a few hundred Seminoles remained in the entire state, taking refuge in the Everglades. 1 2

When Frank Stranahan opened up his trading post (and thereby founding modern day Fort Lauderdale) in the 1890's, we see one of the first  historical mentions of Stranahan Park - it was where Seminole traders would make camp every winter when they came into town. 3

In 1914, Frank Stranahan gave the Fort Lauderdale Woman's Club their property and gave the rest of the block to the city for a park. In 1917, The Fort Lauderdale Woman's Club completed their clubhouse, and Stranahan Park was developed over the course of several years by filling the park with excess dirt from nearby Indian burial mounds. There were many amenities including shuffleboard courts, a bandstand, drinking fountain, and as legends tell, restrooms. 4

Not a whole lot of interest seems to have happened in Stranahan Park in the next 100 years. The Main Library is completed in 1984. At some point, the park becomes a focal point for chronically homeless people. And the Women's Club, aggressively seeking new funding for needed renovations, doesn't seem to like that. 5 6 7

In the 2000's, homeless advocacy and mutual aid groups fight off several attempts at being shut down, most notably "Arnold Abbott v. City of Fort Lauderdale." The City loses most of these battles. 8 9

Woman tackled and arrested for
questioning police brutality in park, 1.23.2014
However from 2009 on the city and establishment press seem to have it in for the users of Stranahan Park. The press goes absolutely hysterical over discovering that a released, convicted child killer is living there in 2010. More negative press comes out like clockwork as homeless people are increasingly discouraged from loitering outside the library or in the park. In 2011, the Women's Club completes over $200k worth of renovations, and in 2012, the Women's Club spearheads the creation of the "Stranahan Botanical Garden," and finally the City puts in a steel fence around the park in 2014. Day to day Stranahan Park is now mostly a ghost park. Homeless people who dare to go into it are regularly confronted by police and trespassed back out onto the street- witnessed as recently as last Friday. 10 11 12 13


Park closed by Women's Club, Friday 6.13.14
There is also a widespread  and extremely false belief being spread throughout downtown that Stranahan Park is owned by the Women's Club of Fort Lauderdale. Purveyors of these mistruths vary but include Park Rangers, FLPD officers, security guards, volunteers and members of the Women's Club. Now it is certainly possible that some of these people are being lied to by someone else but at least some of these people are blatantly lying to create the appearance that Stranahan Park is a private park that people can be segregated from based on the  interests of the Women's Club. Many of these rumors include very vague notions that the City sold the park to the Women's Club at some unspecified date. This is also categorically false.
Stranahan Park on Broward County Property Appraiser's website
This by no means explains everything going on with Stranahan Park. What right did the Women's Club have to convert the park into a "Botanical Garden" in the first place? Why did the City spend $80,000 on a fence for a public park whose gates are controlled by the Women's Club? Why do City officials continue to pretend to be blissfully unaware of all these facts?

Regardless, it's time to kill  this stupid, harmful lie with the truth. Would you like to contact the Fort Lauderdale Women's Club/"Friends of the Stranahan Botanical Garden," the FLPD, or the City of Fort Lauderdale and ask them why their people are spreading lies to prevent people from accessing a park that has been public for as long as the City has existed?

Fort Lauderdale Women's Club: 954-761-9407
Mayor Jack Seiler 954-828-5003, Twitter
Lee R. Feldman, City Manager, 954-828-5013, Twitter
Vice Mayor/Commissioner Rogers, 954-828-5004,
Commissioner Roberts (Also ex-Chief of Police)  954-828-5033,
Commissioner Trantalis 954-828-5923,
Commissioner DuBose 954-828-5004, Twitter

Police Chief Frank Adderly: (954)828-5590,
Twitter for FLPD & Police Chief Frank Adderly

That's all for now, see you in the commons!

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