Many people, even long-time residents of the area, often confuse the city of Oakland Park with the road named, Oakland Park Boulevard. This confusion is understandable, considering that the road does pass through the western border of the city. The fact is that this small city of just over eight square miles is a unique community with a fascinating history.
Once known as Floranada, Oakland Park was originally a larger city that was largely a farming community. In 1926, a hurricane devastated the place. Many residents relocated and businesses closed. After that disaster, the community rebuilt and reorganized as Oakland Park.
An interesting historical note is that famous jazz bass player, Jaco Pastorius (1951-1987), lived in Oakland Park from the age of eight. Jaco identified as a Florida beach bum and liked to perform shirtless and without shoes. While he is recognized as one of the greatest jazz talents of all times, he also suffered with mental illness, primarily bipolar disorder. His mental illness led to a life of drug abuse and difficulties relating to people. Unfortunately, he was killed by a club manager in Wilton Manors, a neighboring city. Jaco Pastorius is honored by his hometown by having a park named after him. This is fitting since he forever changed the role of the bass player in the modern jazz band, inspiring many great jazz and rock bassists. His tragic life in Fort Lauderdale, Oakland Park and finally Wilton Manors serves as a lesson to us to take seriously the needs of people who struggle with mental illness and drug addiction.
Another point of confusion about Oakland Park is how it relates to Fort Lauderdale. In fact, many people assume that the area is simply a part of Fort Lauderdale. This is partly correct. The community may be considered a part of the greater Fort Lauderdale area. However, it is still a unique city that is separate from the city of Fort Lauderdale. If you look at it on a map, Oakland Park, and Wilton Manors to the west, are two small cities engulfed by the larger city of Fort Lauderdale.
While Oakland Park does not reach to the beach, it is also not far from the beautiful Fort Lauderdale beaches. Even though the small city does not have its own beachfront property, it is home to several beautiful parks and many businesses that are an important part of the larger community. From doctors and pharmacies to car repair to construction, you will find many of the best businesses in their class in Oakland Park.
There was a time period in the last two decades that Oakland Park and Wilton Manors became home to a disproportionate number of medical pain clinics. While not all of them were bad places, some were known to be corrupted and dangerous medical facilities that over-prescribed opioids to their patients. These addicting opioids, such as oxycontin, oxycodone, dilaudid, morphine, methadone and others contributed to the rise of the opioid epidemic. To its credit, the city of Oakland Park made an effort to rid itself of these pain clinics and few, if any, remain within the city borders today.
To the north of Oakland Park is the city of Pompano Beach. While Oakland Park and Wilton Manors briefly suffered with the reputation of being home to a large number of opioid prescribing and dispensing pain clinics, Pompano Beach, FL has suffered the unfortunate reputation of being home to many corrupted addiction treatment programs. These ranged from detox facilities to PHP and IOP day programs to dilapidated sober living homes, sprinkled throughout troubled neighborhoods where drug dealers were uncomfortably close to these homes that were supposed to promote recovery from addiction. Fortunately, there has been a concerted effort throughout Florida to clean up bad addiction treatment facilities. Additionally, with the recognition that Medication Assisted Treatment for opiate and opioid addiction is the gold standard of care with the highest possible success rate, the battle against the opioid crisis is being fought in small clinics and local doctors offices. The many corrupted rehab programs that were not even owned or run by medical doctors are starting to fade away. Yet, there still remains many reputable larger addiction treatment programs in the area. This is good as they play an important role in the difficult treatment of other addictions, such as cocaine and methamphetamine addiction.
Other notable small cities that surround Oakland Park and its sister city of Wilton Manors in the greater Fort Lauderdale area are Davie and Hollywood. Davie, a city to the west, has become the educational center of the region. It is home to many universities that are clustered in a relatively small area. These universities work together and share resources. Colleges here include medical schools, law schools, business schools and more. A person can be educated from preschool all the way to graduate school and professional school without ever leaving the city limits of Davie.
Hollywood, Florida is a unique city to the west of Fort Lauderdale that has a long and interesting history. Fort Lauderdale, Oakland Park, Wilton Manors, Pompano Beach and Davie are all a part of Broward County. Hollywood is also in Broward, yet it is not considered a part of the Fort Lauderdale area like the others. It has its own unique identity. Hollywood is home to a beautiful beach, many great restaurants and it is also where the homes of longtime residents of South Florida. In fact, after the devastation of Hurricane Andrew in the 90s, many residents of Miami relocated to Hollywood. Hollywood is home to the Memorial Hospital system that is made up of multiple hospitals. Memorial is on the groundbreaking, cutting edge of opioid addiction treatment. The future of medication-assisted treatment of opiate and opioid addiction involves starting treatment in the hospital emergency department when a patient comes in after an overdose or is suffering with ongoing addiction-related issues. While many ER docs are not prepared to help these patients, Memorial has a solid program in place to start treatment and continue it, even for patients who cannot afford treatment.
Another interesting fact about both Oakland Park and Wilton Manors is that both cities are home to many gay residents. When driving down the beautiful winding street of Wilton Drive, you will note many rainbow flags, a symbol of gay pride. While people who are gay still find that discrimination and prejudice are a problem in many communities throughout the United States, these small cities within Fort Lauderdale, and even the city of Fort Lauderdale itself, are the proud homes of many gay residents. We take pride in the fact that our city is not only the home of many LGBT residents, it was literally built into the wonderful, thriving region that it is today primarily by this community made up of many hard-working, creative and brilliant people.
So, while this article is was originally intended to focus on the small, eight square mile city of Oakland Park, it is difficult to avoid bringing in the many amazing places that surround it. Wilton Manors, sometimes called The Island City, deserves its own full article to discuss the unique history and features. Pompano Beach, to the north, is also a place of interest and rich history. Residents of Broward are somewhat aware of the interesting distinctions of each small city surrounding and within Fort Lauderdale. We know that there is more to this region than just a strip of beach that serves the Spring Break crowd. Our cities have interesting and unique characteristics and cultures and are excellent places to live and raise families. Our part of South Florida and the Greater Miami Area is more than just a tourist destination. It is a great place to work and live.