Everglades Park visitors to finally get overnight accommodations

MIASF elects new chair, officers, board members

It’s been a long time coming, but by December 2019 Everglades National Park is supposed to have 24 new elevated cottages and 20 cottage-like platform tents for overnight visitors at its Flamingo outpost.

Campgrounds have been the only overnight accommodations there since 2005, when hurricanes Katrina and Wilma wrecked most of the old facilities. They’re pretty good campgrounds, but not too high class for mosquitos. Lots of people don’t like mingling with their kind, especially in summertime.

The new stuff will be built and run by a subsidiary of Guest Services Inc., a Virginia company handling national park facilities elsewhere since 1917. It will also take over the marina with its store, houseboat and kayak rentals, and will provide a new restaurant.

Getting to this wasn’t easy. A lot of plans have come and gone since 2009, when the last of the hurricane rubble — as well as some cottages still in good repair — were swept away by wrecking machines.

Until this year, the National Park Service had a hard time getting any responses, much less viable ones, when it advertised for proposals to rebuild accommodations at Flamingo. Visitation there tends to be even more seasonal than the rest of South Florida’s tourist traffic.

We borrow from the Miami Herald’s interview with Pedro Ramos, superintendent of Everglades:

“Constructing something in a place like Flamingo clearly takes more effort than in a more metropolitan area,” Ramos said. “We’re talking about an area within Monroe County that sits an hour and-a-half away from Miami proper.”

The extra effort includes elevating the cottages to 17 feet above ground to withstand flooding, complying with the Monroe County building code. They will have to be sturdy enough to withstand hurricane winds.

Guest Services’ deal with the park service allows it to put up as many as 40 cottages and 40 tents. They made a joint announcement with the park, but haven’t posted details of the plan.

Avoiding unnecessary fish kills

It’s an ugly sight when a fish caught on a deep reef comes to the boat with its stomach sticking out of its mouth. Maybe you can stomach bulging eyes and a bloated belly, but what about distended intestines?

All those are signs of barotrauma, the scientific term for what happens when a deep reef fish — say a grouper or snapper — is reeled up from 50 feet or more below the surface. Not always, but often enough to consider a problem.

Suppose you catch a fish that’s short of legal size and has to be let go, or you’ve collared your limit for the day and are having so much fun that you stay out, switching to catch and release. All is going swimmingly when up comes a grouper with its tummy outside its teeth.

It can’t swim back down where it came from. It has virtually no chance to survive.

As a bottom fishing-doer you’d like to help solve that problem, right? You can, by enlisting in a state project to test descending devices — tools that recompress a fish’s swim bladder, which controls its buoyancy.

To reinforce the feeling that you’re doing something important, the FWC will give you a title: Citizen Scientist.

Minimalists might prefer to stick to using a common venting needle to release expanded gas from the fish’s internal organs. It serves the purpose if you poke it into the fish in just the right spot at just the right angle. Maybe you get it right. Maybe you don’t.

Descending devices, also called recompression tools, are more intricate and equipment-intensive. Those things are weighted to help the fish get down to its reef. As they descend, water pressure recompresses the swim bladder, the bulging organs return to normal and the fish can swim free.

One of the reasons for the state project is to find out why some people won’t do it that way. Could it be that they don’t think it’s worth the bother? Too much fuss? Seems like a good bet, but science abhors guessing.

To help conduct the study, FWC is after head boat and charter captains and anglers who frequent the deep reefs. To get involved, start with a simple questionnaire you’ll find online at www.surveymonkey.com/r/XK55MJV.

You can find out more about barotrauma on FWC’s YouTube channel at www.MyFWC.com/saltwaterfishing. Another FWC link to barotrauma details is here: http://myfwc.com/fishing/saltwater/recreational/fishhandling/#barotrauma .

Basin offers rec opportunities

A hard-to-enter chunk of South Florida Water Management territory, which was turned into a 15,000- acre reservoir and swamp in 2015, is to be opened this year to public recreation. It’s been given the catchy title of A-1 Flow Equalization Basin.

The basin holds water for distribution to nearby storm water treatment areas where undesirable nutrients are removed before the water is let into the Everglades.

Recreation potential is optimistic. SFWMD’s announcement has chairman Dan O’Keefe saying the basin will offer “hiking, biking, hunting, wildlife viewing and other activities."

Those other activities will include fishing, but not for boats propelled by gasoline engines.

“We have to make a place to park and get signs, etc.” said senior planner Jerry Kranz. “We are aiming for Sept 16. Meantime, there is no public access there.”

Well, not exactly. You may have to drive a lot on levees too high and steep for launching, but it’s possible informally to launch a canoe, kayak or other shallows boat with an electric trolling motor if the water’s deep enough. Waterfront Times explored parts of it last year, finding little potential access except at the southeastern and northeastern corners, just off U.S, 27 (Okeechobee Road). The triangular tract lies along the west side of the highway in Palm Beach County, north of the turnoff for the Holey Land and Rotenberger wildlife management areas.

Although the access is being supplied by Water Management, recreational activities will be handled by FWC. We asked spokeswoman Amber Nabors what to expect once the place opens.

“Fishing will be allowed along with hunting, hiking and biking,” she said. “Water depth will likely be no more than 4-to 4-1⁄2 feet. Sometimes depth will be much lower.

“Small boats, canoes and kayaks equipped with trolling motors will be allowed but no gas motors. There isn’t any suitable boat trailer access because of the narrow levee roads.”
That means your boat had better be light enough to lift manually off and onto a car-top or pickup bed.

MIASF board elected

Publisher David Reed of The Triton this month becomes chairman of the Marine Industries Association of South Florida. Reed publishes news for megayacht captains and mates.

Other new directors and executive officers introduced at MIASF’s annual dinner meeting and awards are vice chairman Jim Naugle, a real estate agent and former mayor of Fort Lauderdale; Secretary/Treasurer Doug West who is president of Lauderdale Marine Center and past chair Danielle Butler of Luxury Law Group.

Jimmie Harrison of Frank & Jimmie’s Propellers and James Brewer of Derecktor Shipyard were re-elected to the board. New board members are marina manager Megan Lagasse of Bahia Mar Yachting Center, and Suntex Marinas’ regional manager Marieke van Peer.

Joe Rubano of RPM Diesel was given the Golden Anchor Award for a lifetime of industry contribution and achievement.

Feedback: witzfish@att.net.