Address / Location: 1515 Golden Gate Parkway, Naples. Freedom Park is located just east of the intersection of Golden Gate Parkway and Goodlette-Frank Road and the Coastland Center Mall.
Manager Contact Information: Freedom Park is managed by the Collier County Parks and Recreation Department.
Preserve size: The entire Freedom Park is 50 acres in size. The Conservation Collier portion is comprised of 12.5 acres on the eastern side of the Park.
Date Acquired: June 19, 2008
Cost of Acquisition: $56,300 - Acquired in partnership with the County's Transportation Stormwater and Parks and Recreation Departments
Public Access Status: Freedom Park is open from 8 am to dusk daily.
Printed Materials Available: Freedom Park Management Plan
Public Access Facilities: There is vehicle access to the Park from both sides of Golden Gate Parkway with free public parking. Public restrooms are located in the 2,500 square feet Exhibition Hall. A 3,500 foot boardwalk extends over the eastern side of the park and the portion belonging to Conservation Collier. Trails punctuated by six lookout pavilions wind around the lakes in the western side of the park. The entire park is accessible by wheelchair. Freedom park is named after the Freedom Memorial, currently under construction, a tribute to the lives lost on 9/11/01 in the terrorist attacks and to the heros of past and present wars. The memorial itself will include a flag set over concrete replicas of each state surrounded by dedication bricks, which can be purchased. Donations may also be made to assist with the memorial construction by contacting www.collierremembers.org.
Plants and Wildlife: Before the recent restoration at Freedom Park, the property had been without management for many decades. The western two-thirds of the property contained grown-over fields and orchards where orange trees and row crops had been planted in the 1950's and 60's. Several wells and piping remained from a long defunct irrigation system and the property was home to vagrants and overgrown with invasive exotic plants including grasses, melaleuca trees, and Brazilian pepper. This portion of the property was acquired with grant funding from the Florida Communities Trust and the South Florida Water Management District for the purpose of developing a water quality filtration system for area stormwater as it enters the Gordon River and flows to the Naples Bay. A series of 4 constructed freshwater marshes were completed in 2009. As water travels through these marshes, native wetland plants uptake much of the organic pollutants and heavy metals settle out of the water. Water then flows through the natural wetlands on the east side, where it is further filtered, and into the Gordon River. While it was designed to accomplish this functional purpose, the park was also designed to provide a beautiful recreation site for residents. Pathways circle the marshes and wind through areas restored with native plant species. Signs posted along the pathways identify the plants. Many types of wetland-dependent birds can be seen foraging within the marshes, including great white herons, ibis, green herons, and great blue herons.
The eastern 12.5 acres of the property, owned by Conservation Collier, is where the natural wetlands are located. The existing vegetation included towering cypress, pond apple and mangroves, but it was heavily choked with invasive exotic plants, primarily Brazilian pepper and shoebutton ardesia. The restoration of this area served as mitigation for the alterations that took place elsewhere on the property. Here, there were no landscape alterations. The invasive exotic plant species were removed and the wetland area was restored with native plants, including the flowering pickerel weed, swamp lily, Sagittaria and canna lily that can be seen from the boardwalk. Native plants are identified by plaques posted along the boardwalk railing. Many of the plants are food and larval host plants for colorful native butterflies, which are often present. Native wildlife is also regularly spotted by visitors along the boardwalk. Frequent wildlife sightings include red shouldered hawks, a barred owl, pileated woodpeckers, green herons, great blue herons, little blue herons, great white herons, racoons, gray squirrels, marsh rabbits, river otter, armadillos, alligators, turtles, snakes and frogs.
Reason for Acquisition: The eastern one-third of the property was acquired by the Conservation Collier program because it met five of the six criteria used in the program. It contained native habitat. was accessible and visible, was within protection zones for area public wells, had value for protection of surface water resources, was used by protected species, and was connected to existing conservation lands on its eastern edge. Additionally, as low-lying wetlands, it could be expected to contain floodwaters, providing some protection for surrounding developed properties.