How Fort Lauderdale’s New Mockingbird Trail Came To Be

Rebecca Bradley, co-founder of landscape architect firm Cadence, helped implement Fort Lauderdale’s newest nature path, The Mockingbird Trail.

The flamingo may be more iconic, but it’s the mockingbird that’s Florida’s state bird.

The discreetly colored creature blends in with its surroundings, namely, the urban sprawl.

It’s the idea that nature can still thrive within the concrete jungle that inspired Rebecca Bradley and a group of residents to create Fort Lauderdale’s Mockingbird Trail—a two-mile loop that wanders through FAT Village, follows the railroad, passes Peter Feldman Park and meanders past Top Hat Deli.

All along the trail, visitors will notice signs of the mythical mockingbird. There are mockingbird sculptures by artist Valeria Yamamoto and a mockingbird mural is splashed on a nearby wall. Stepping-stones along the path feature the bird’s footprints.   

Bradley, who grew up in Shreveport, Louisiana, credits her travels to Barcelona, Spain and Edinburgh, Scotland to her passion and understanding of the outdoors. As the co-founder of Cadence, a landscape architecture firm in Fort Lauderdale, she aims to create sustainable developments that embrace the environment, similar to how old European cities were designed before the age of the car. 

“You miss out so much on connecting with others or understanding a place when you’re in a car,” she says. 

Bradley has always appreciated the outdoors, but never more so than when she moved to Fort Lauderdale and saw a lack of green space. 

A relatively young city, Fort Lauderdale is packed with traffic jams and parking battles. However, Bradley and her firm have worked to amplify outdoor living in a city where residents could spend nearly every day outside.

Named for the rhythm of the architectural process, Cadence got its start in 2010. Two years later, Bradley and her business partner, Gage Couch, opened a brick-and-mortar office in the creative enclave of Flagler Village. 

“Humans are really attracted to living in places where they can walk, where they can get to things easily, they can experience a vibrant street setting. So that’s really what we were interested in seeing be recreated here in Fort Lauderdale specifically,” Bradley says. 

Cadence was the master planner for the Flagler Village Community Garden, and then teamed up with the local South Florida Girls’ Club non-profit to execute the Mockingbird Trail. The garden was awarded the Community Foundation of Broward’s Art of Community Grant. Plus, donations from the Dan Marino Foundation, BBX Capital, “be nice” restaurant group, and Bank United have given the project wings. Residents eagerly followed along with the progress on social media, and to Bradley’s delight, became a part of the trail.

“It’s one thing to like a picture on Instagram, but it’s another thing to have people show up for meetings, to make real donations, to engage in a realistic way,” she says. “We weren’t necessarily nervous if people would like it, but just would everybody understand?”

Phase one of the Mockingbird Trail launched in October 2015, and Yamamoto will complete two more sculptures this year to finalize the art component of the trail. With further funding, Cadence will bring in native, wildlife-nourishing plant life and subtle lighting.

“We feel like we’ve created something that has meaning, and it’s specific to this neighborhood,” Bradley says. “We built this with the community. We conducted community workshops. The community really helped us come up with this idea. So we feel like definitely … the community has ownership of it, and that makes the biggest difference of all.”

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