The first donation of land for a Dade County park came from the Matheson family in 1929 — 80 acres on Biscayne Bay for Matheson Hammock Park. Over the past nine decades, it grew with further donations by the Matheson heirs, purchases by county commissioner Charles Crandon, and other donations to its current 630 acres.
During the depression, Civilian Conservation Corps camps were set up by the US Army. Hundreds of men went to work laying the foundations for local parks — first at Greynolds in 1933 and then at Matheson Hammock in 1935. They constructed roads, cleared grounds, dug lagoons and a harbor, laid walls, planted trees and built picnic tables and shelters.
The protected lagoon — some call it an atoll — and marina on the bay side included a snack bar (now a restaurant) changing rooms and a white sand beach littered with coconut palms. The marina has slips for about 300 boats, a fishing tackle shop, boat launch ramps, gas and diesel fuel, and wetslips.
On higher ground, a picnic area alongside Old Cutler Road next to Fairchild Gardens is an ideal setting for social gatherings beneath the shade of mighty oak trees and a cool hammock.
This beach and lagoon areas have been favorite places for families for almost a century. Recent renovations since damage from Hurricane Irma have been completed. It’s a safe place to play in Biscayne Bay and the changing tide flushes out the natural pool with fresh water twice a day.