Best Nature Trail (2011)
Several years ago, the "last house" was built in Coral Springs. In other words, every lot big enough to hold a house had been used. Even this western suburb's parks are well-developed, highly engineered centers of human activity, from the carefully manicured baseball and soccer fields to the running trails with workout stops every tenth of a mile to the chlorinated pools with Crayola-colored plastic slides and watchful lifeguards. But tucked behind one such bustling public pool at Cypress Park on Coral Springs Drive (known everywhere else in Broward County as Pine Island Road) is Cypress Hammock/Orchid, a small but breathtaking nature trail. You won't find any pictures of it online. You won't even find a description of it on coralsprings.org — though the site will tell you all about the eight tennis courts, the playground, concession stand, grills, tables, restrooms, meeting rooms, and picnic areas that make up most of the park's 16 acres. But if you can avoid the pool and keep on the sidewalk, walk right on past the tennis courts on your right and the pro shops on your left and go just past where you think the park ends — and you will find something special. A boardwalk seems to hover a few feet above a prehistoric jungle of ferns. The pop and squeak of people playing tennis can't be heard here. The roar of the pool slides and swimming kids does not penetrate. Other than the call of the occasional bird, you are suddenly in a silent primeval oasis in the middle of Coral Springs. If you stop halfway along the trail, stand perfectly still, and let the humidity soak into your clothes, hair, and skin, you can imagine what this area was really like before we came along. And if all that nature freaks you out, don't worry — there's a concession stand 30 feet away.