Broward County's first nature center, which opened in September 1978, comprises three vegetative communities found along and influenced by the New River: an inland freshwater cypress/maple wetland, a pond apple/mangrove community along the river, and, farther inland, a laurel oak hammock. The 57-acre site is now designated as an Urban Wilderness Area.
When the approximately 30 acres known as the Rebecca Cohen Subdivision were scheduled for rezoning to make way for a marina parking lot in 1971, there was an outcry from local citizens who wanted to preserve their "secret woods." The rezoning was canceled and the Nature Conservancy (a nonprofit organization) bought most of the property. Broward County made an agreement with the Nature Conservancy to purchase the land back within three years. In 1975, and over the next decade, the county purchased additional parcels of land while also receiving some donations, to bring the park to its current size of 57 acres. A matching Land and Water Conservation Fund grant from the U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Outdoor Recreation, was also used during the nature center's development.