Opening in 1931, the park is one of the earliest examples of grass-roots public support for environmental preservation. Local citizens, with financial assistance of the Margaret Shippen Roebling family, acquired the property constructing trails and basic facilities in 1930. In 1934, a Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) camp began working on a botanical garden project adjacent to Highlands Hammock Park. When Florida¿s state park system was established in 1935, Highlands Hammock became one of the first parks. In 1941, the park and gardens merged as the CCC camp closed due to impending war. During those years, the CCC had planted thousands of plants, constructed roadways, dams, bridges and buildings. Although the gardens never became a reality, the park's natural beauty endures.
The Florida Botanical Garden and Arboretum, a Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) project, operated on an adjacent piece of property to the original Highlands Hammock park. Eventually the garden project and the park properties were merged and became Highlands Hammock State Park in 1935. The botanical garden project was abandoned after WW II, but the history of this time is interpreted in the state CCC Museum, located within the park.
Congressman Herbert Drane visited the property in 1930, posing here next to the 1,000-year-old Big Oak along the Big Oak Trail. During that time, early supporters had hoped to turn the property over to the National Park Service. These early citizens ensured that this beautiful property remained for today's enjoyment.
Several generations have enjoyed the family campground at Highlands Hammock State Park. This photo taken in the early 1950s offers a glimpse of the camping amenities of that time.
Carol Beck, the first state park naturalist, became very popular for her guided tram tours in the early 1950s. Ms. Beck worked for the Florida Park Service from the 1940s to the 1960s. She was also known for her nature walks. Both of these programs continue today, led by park rangers.