The Martin Grade Through the Years
From 1930 to 2015
The Martin Grade
The Martin Grade is in western Martin County, Florida, which is on the east coast of Florida between Lake Okeechobee and the Atlantic Ocean. It is centrally located, approximately two hours from Orlando, Tampa, and Miami, and only one hour from West Palm Beach.
Off the beaten path, the Martin Grade is more a journey than a destination. It is the shortest distance between the madding crowds of today's 21st century Florida urban lifestyles and the serene rural existence of an earlier era.
Once you have left the roads most traveled, the Martin Grade is also centrally located between the unique and historical small towns of Stuart, Indiantown, and Okeechobee. The Martin Grade begins just ten miles west of Palm City, and a spectacular tree canopy shades much of its twelve-mile journey to the west.
The Martin Grade Scenic Corridor is Martin Highway (County Road 714), between Allapattah Road (State Road 609) and Warfield Boulevard (State Road 710). Centrally located between the unique and distinct communities of Stuart, Indiantown, and Okeechobee, the Martin Grade begins just ten miles west of Palm City, Florida.
The Future of
The Martin Grade
The Future of the Martin Grade is
Having the Martin Grade designated a Florida Scenic Highway took ten years of hard work by dedicated volunteers and a small non-profit, Sustaining Community Lands, Inc. Maintaining that designation into the future will take more work and dedication.
In 2018, another local non-profit, Keep Martin Beautiful, with a long history of community service stepped in to shoulder that task.
Keep Martin Beautiful is a volunteer-based, community-action organization based in Martin County, Florida, whose mission is to preserve and enhance the quality of life in our community through:
beautification and community improvement
environmental stewardship education
Keep Martin Beautiful a perfect fit for the Martin Grade.
If you would like to support their efforts, contact them on their website or Facebook page.
Thank you, very much.
How the Grade
Got it's Name
Calling Martin Highway between SR 609 and SR 710 “The Grade” encapsulates the historical pattern of road building in Martin County during the late 19th and early 20th Century.
Roads were few and far between and varied greatly in their quality. Settlers tended to describe them according to their state of construction and repair, which alerted travelers immediately to what kind of traveling experience to expect.
Martin County was Florida’s last frontier, a wild land populated mostly by Seminoles and a handful of white settlers until the late 19th Century. Like most of Florida’s southeast coast, its initial communities sprang up in coastal areas settlers could easily reach by boat, and there was little need for roads to connect them.
As a result, Martin County’s first roads were game and Indian trails and overgrown remnants of roads the military had built during the Seminole Wars which had ended fifty-years earlier.
Newcomers who settled on outlying properties away from the coast were forced to build their own roads by hand. The first were “cut-and-grub” roads which were named after the way they were constructed—by cutting down the trees and palmettos and grubbing out their roots.
Where they ran through wetlands, tree trunks were laid side-by-side across the muck creating bumpy but serviceable “corduroy” roads. In dry areas, where wagon wheels dug deep crevasses into the sand or dirt base, these narrow one lane passages were called “two-rut” roads.
As traffic on these frontier roads grew, they often became too costly to maintain by individuals. It was a day of rejoicing when they were eventually taken over by a local government that could expand them and maintain them using a motorized grader. These wider, flatter, and significantly smoother sand and dirt roads were referred to as “grades.”
Within this context, the fact that the last twelve miles of Martin Highway was not paved until the mid-1990’s and was therefore referred to as “The Grade” for seventy years reveals the uniqueness of both the road and the community it serves. Martin County is now and always has been different than the rest of southeast Florida.
What is the Martin Grade?
The Road that Time Forgot.
A drive across the Martin Grade is a drive through the beauty of Old Florida – through land that time seems to have forgotten. To the east lie barrier islands, rich lagoons, and flowing rivers that characterize Florida’s Atlantic Coast. To the west lies Lake Okeechobee, the second largest fresh water lake in the United States. In between, are the Allapattah Flats, remnants of the impenetrable sloughs and wet prairies that once made up the Alpatiokee Swamp in the northern Everglades.
The Road Back to the Land.
Although the land along the Grade has been altered by more than a century of human use, much of it has been targeted for public acquisition and protection. The remainder is being used just as it was used 100 years ago – for cattle grazing and citrus. Time on the Martin Grade once seemed to be standing still, and now seems to be going backward.
The Road Back to Nature.
The Grade takes you to the 22,000-acre Allapattah Flats Wildlife Management Area, which is open to the public year-round. Recreational opportunities include hiking, bicycling, horseback riding, primitive camping, hunting. fishing and wildlife viewing.
Visitors may hike or bike on the five mile long trail system leading to an open marsh popular with wading birds. There are separate trails for equestrians as well as a 150-acre riding area.