An eighteen month plus study into new ways to manage resources in the Everglades National Park watershed (emphasis: Florida Bay and the Gulf Coast from Ten Thousand Islands to Flamingo) has been completed, and alternatives are now on the table.
Propeller scarring on sea grass seems to be one of the (if not THE) major concern which led to the proposed usage changes:
I personally feel that anyone who scoots across less that a foot of water with their prop down has serious deficiencies in the mental department, and deserves to shear pins and be exempt from a tow. Pole your ass all the way home if you’re going to be that stupid. When you are on the water with professional guides, they are quick to point out the issue, and generally express the the same feeling I do. Navigable channels are already pretty well marked, and those tearing ass across the skinny aren’t doing much besides getting to their hot spot a minute earlier (and probably spooking a lot of fish by not throttling down sooner too).
Alternatives #3 (PDF) and #4 (PDF) of the proposal would significantly limit the accessibility of area to sportfishing, with some routes in and out of prime fishing zones almost obliterated from Tavenier to Layton (they’d be troll and pole only) under #4. Most of the restriction would be determined by water depth too, a barrier difficult (if not impossible) to enforce with the shifting tides. Either would have a huge impact on the local economies, which rely heavily on unabated use of the area.
Common to all proposals – essentially manage as is…
- Improve national park boundary marking, channel marking, and navigational aids including recommended channel network and transit corridors/routes in Florida Bay.
- Continue current management of Florida Bay keys; to protect nesting and rookery areas, all keys remain closed to recreational use except North Nest, Little Rabbit, Carl Ross, and Bradley keys.
- Establish a seagrass restoration program for submerged marine wilderness resources and sites/areas damaged by groundings and propeller scarring.
- Approach resource management from an ecosystem perspective, considering outside influences (e.g., Everglades restoration efforts, climate change, and socioeconomic considerations) on resources and ecosystem processes.
- Rebuilding Flamingo facilities — an elevated lodge, elevated cottages, ecotents, RV campground with electric hookups, houseboats, and two backcountry camping platforms or chickees in Florida Bay — in a sustainable manner.
- Provide increased education and recreational opportunities based out of Flamingo.
- Provide additional land- and water-based transportation options at Flamingo, including circulator shuttle, bicycles, canoes and kayaks, and land and water trails.
- Establish new, long-term concession contract for Flamingo.
Also…implement the approved Flamingo Commercial Services Plan, including:
Alternative #1 takes all the above into account – continued prudent management and some enhancement to facilities, but without further restrictions on use. I wouldn’t be opposed to adding some simple sea grass awareness and/or backcountry education requirement to the mix either – I don’t think USCG captains need it (at least not the ones I’ve hung around), but I’m certain a lot of other folks who venture into the area do. And while Alternative #2 does not add abhorrent navigation restrictions, it does implement a measure of pole/troll and/or paddle only zoning that I believe is going to be more trouble enforcing than it’s worth.
As far as I’m concerned, it’s all backcountry once you leave the dock. You shouldn’t set sail if you don’t know what you are doing, and I’m always going to be skeptical of any proposal that restricts the activities of many because of the mistakes of a few.
Man invented the four-stroke high output. But God invented the poling platform.
MG signing off (to hit the flats with the prop up)
Editor’s note: Thanks first to Tim ‘Fishman’ Emery for pointing this out a few days back. Also, the entire GMP/East Everglades Wildnerness Study is available here (big PDF). Review at your leisure, and please feel free to set me straight if I’ve missed anything here.