Work On Long-Range General Management Plan For Everglades National Park Slows Down

The country's fiscal fitness, or lack thereof, is forcing Everglades National Park officials to re-examine the direction of development at Flamingo and Everglades City, and that, in turn, is slowing work on the park's long-range general management plan.

At this point, park officials anticipate release of the draft GMP for public review and comment in 2013. The final GMP is expected to be completed in 2014. For more information about the GMP, you can visit this page on the park's website.

It's been more than six years since a hurricane destroyed Flamingo's old lodging facilities, which was a collection of motel-like buildings dating to the early 1960s. Back in August 2010 when the park released the master plan to guide rebuilding of the Flamingo area, officials envisioned a $15 million-$18 million lodge. The plan called for a 30-unit lodge (2 elevated buildings) that would replace the series of motel-like units. The facility was to be built within easy walking distance to the visitor center, marina, restaurant, pool, and amphitheater. Two-dozen one- and two-bedroom cottage units also were in the plan.

But after going over the lodging aspect of the master plan with National Park Service Director Jon Jarvis and considering the relatively short season for peak occupancy, the cost of building in the Flamingo area, and the threats posed by hurricanes and sea-level rise tied to climate change, park officials decided to return to the drawing board.

Everglades Superintendent Dan Kimball says revised options for facilities at both Flamingo and Everglades City will incorporate more cost-effective and sustainable approaches for improving these park destinations.

Establishing long-term direction for the Flamingo and the Gulf Coast sites that is realistic and feasible is fundamental to the GMP effort, say park officials. This requires taking into account existing and projected budget constraints, the susceptibility of these low-lying coastal sites to intense storms and flooding, and providing future concessioners at both sites with viable business opportunities.

The Flamingo and Gulf Coast segments of the GMP are evolving on separate tracks.

Flamingo Redevelopment

Redevelopment of this area will be scaled back from the plans developed in 2008 and 2010 and will culminate in a new, long-term concessions contract that will be developed based on a financial and market analyses that informs the scope and terms of the Concessions Prospectus (or Request for Proposals) that will go out to potential bidders. The ultimate contract negotiated between the NPS and the selected concessioner should be awarded in late 2013 and will identify the facilities and services that will be provided at Flamingo.

Though the scope of the Flamingo redevelopment is being scaled back, the analysis informing the next concessions contract is tied to the important principles and public involvement that occurred in the 2008 Commercial Services Plan and the 2010 Master Plan that provided additional details.

Gulf Coast Site Redevelopment

The park is seeking the public's ideas and suggestions for how best to provide visitor opportunities, meet park operational needs, and support future concessions operations in the Gulf Coast District. The existing facilities and related infrastructure were constructed in 1966 and have undergone minimal changes and few improvements over the years. These facilities have become functionally obsolete, structurally unsound, and are at-risk in this low-lying coastal setting.

The park is holding a public meeting on the Gulf Coast project:

Thursday, January 19, 2012 5:30-8:00 p.m. at

Big Cypress National Preserve Welcome Center

33000 Tamiami Trail East, Ochopee, FL 34141

(2.5 miles east of Tamiami Trail and Route 29 intersection)

The first hour will be an open house to give everyone an opportunity to review project information, talk with staff and provide comments. At 6:30 p.m. there will be a short presentation about the project followed by additional public comment and discussion.