Freedom Park & The Freedom Memorial
Hidden in plain sight, on the northeast corner of Goodlette-Frank Road and Golden Gate Parkway, is one of Collier County's newest parks, Fred W. Coyle Freedom Park. Thousands of people drive by it daily without realizing that there are roughly 50 acres to explore, right in the heart of the city. This park actually comprises one of the best passive parks and filter marshes in the Naples area. It’s particularly easy to get to given the urban location and, of course, both the park and parking are free.
Freedom Park features about a mile and a half of trails and elevated boardwalks which wind through preserves providing a beautiful recreation site for residents in addition to its distinct ecological purpose which is protecting wildlife and southwest Florida waterways. As sheet flow and storm water travel through the four marshes within Freedom Park, a natural water quality filtration system is quietly at work. Native wetland plants uptake the organic pollutants while heavy metals settle out of the water. The result is cleaner, filtered water entering the Gordon River, Naples Bay and the Gulf of Mexico.
During an early morning walk at Freedom Park you can easily spot the usual suspects; butterflies, rabbits, frogs, freshly blossoming wild flowers, a wide variety of wading birds and many native Florida plants. There are plaques posted along the boardwalk railing to identify many of the plants and trees. Not surprisingly, you’ll also get to see some of Naples’ finest residents getting in their morning walk or run. The trail and boardwalk is entirely ADA accessible so it’s perfect for bikes, strollers and those with mobility issues. The trail itself is made up of several short trails loops so there are shorter options for those who may not have the time to walk the entire trail system. Best of all, there are plenty of benches along the way for rest, as well as, six look-out pavilions and two picnic areas. A few of the pavilions are on beautiful, lily pad filled lakes where catch and release fishing is permitted.
This is a wonderful park for all ages but it would be a great beginner trail due to the shorter length trails, ease of use and the facilities on site. The restrooms, water fountains and the park butterfly garden are accessible all year round. Fall through spring there is also a 2500 square-foot education facility that is open to the public.
Fred W. Coyle Freedom Park is named in honor of Fred W. Coyle and the Freedom Memorial which is currently under construction and expected to be completed in early 2016. The memorial is a tribute to the lives lost on 9/11/01 in the terrorist attacks and to the heroes of past and present wars. On my last walk through Freedom Park I walked by the Freedom Memorial on a day when commemorative bricks were being dedicated and installed. I found out that you can order personalized commemorative bricks to be installed at the memorial by visiting www.freedommemorialfoundationofnaples.org.
When you go don’t forget to bring water and remember that there are no trash cans so what you carry in you also carry out. The western side of the trail is pet friendly, the boardwalk portion is not.
Freedom Park and the Collier County Freedom Memorial are located at 1515 Golden Gate Parkway, Naples, just east of the Coastland Center Mall.
Happy Trails and Boardwalks!
Read also: Gordon River Greenway
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