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Everglades National Park proposes to implement a pole and troll boating zone in Florida Bay to help protect seagrass and wildlife habitat, and enhance a range of visitor experiences including shallow-waterfishing, wildlife viewing and paddling opportunities. The park is seeking public input on the proposed action, alternatives being considered, and potential implementation strategies.
The idea for this project emerged following General Management Plan (GMP) meetings earlier this year when new scientific and visitor use information, along with a new set of preliminary marine area alternatives, was presented to the public. That effort resulted in meaningful public input on the ways to improve future management of Florida Bay. Superintendent Dan Kimball was impressed with the depth of public input and notes, "Among the many great ideas we heard from stakeholder groups and long-time users of Florida Bay, was the suggestion for park managers to consider an initial pole and troll zone in Florida Bay before completing the GMP. The park is now pursuing this idea and over the summer my staff and I visited several pole and troll zones in Florida to learn first-hand about implementation and management options. The value of these zones for protecting shallow-water resources and providing better visitor use opportunities has been demonstrated, and we plan to use these lessons learned to better inform our efforts to improve resource protection and visitor experiences in Everglades National Park."
Project Startup and Preliminary Recommendation
An interdisciplinary team from the park was recently established and began working on the proposed project, developing project objectives and criteria for evaluating potential sites in Florida Bay. Field trips in the Bay refined the team’s understanding of the project’s issues and challenges, and four alternative areas were identified and evaluated (Snake Bight, Garfield Bight, Peterson Key Bank, Shell Key Bank). The team’s preliminary recommendation is that Snake Bight, a popular area immediately east of Flamingo best met the project objectives and ranked highest among the four sites based on the criteria evaluation.
The new zone would remain open to the public, but combustion motor use would not be allowed inside the zone. Inside the zone, boats would only be permitted to use push poles, paddles, or electric trolling motors. Implementation of the zone places a heavy emphasis on education and outreach. The park would develop and widely disseminate maps, brochures, and other materials in an effort to communicate the new zone to the public. In addition, the park would implement a monitoring plan to help assess the zone's effectiveness over time in protecting seagrass and wildlife habitat, enhancing fishing and other recreational experiences. If a decision is reached to implement the Snake Bight pole and troll zone, access to the zone would be enhanced through on-plane transit via the Snake Bight and Tin Can Channels while adjacent Jimmie’s Lake would allow idle-speed transit in waters deeper than 2 feet.
Relationship to the GMP
The proposed zone is not associated with future decisions to be made in the GMP; however, public input on the GMP earlier this year demonstrated public interest for this idea in advance of completing the GMP. Dan Kimball noted, "Our stakeholders have clearly communicated support for a pole and troll zone in Florida Bay to enhance resource protection and visitor experiences. This zone should result in increased protection of seagrass, higher quality fishing opportunities, better wildlife viewing, and better paddling trips, in a very popular area. If this project is implemented, I expect that its monitoring activities would provide valuable information to support GMP implementation and adaptive management strategies in the years ahead." The draft GMP is scheduled for public review in early 2011 and completion in 2012.
Public comment period continues through November 30, 2009
Comments are welcome on all aspects of the proposed project including objectives; alternative locations in Florida Bay under consideration; the boundary of the proposed Snake Bight zone; activities to effectively mark, educate the public, and enforce the zone; and monitoring activities to determine the success of the zone. A slide presentation describing the project and questions the park would like feedback on about the project is available for review at the park website link below and will be presented at two upcoming meetings. Public input can be provided in several ways.
At the public meetings:
Monday, November 9, 6:00 to 7:30 P.M., John D. Campbell Agricultural Center, 18710 SW 288th Street, Homestead, FL
Tuesday, November 10, 6:00 to 7:30 P.M., Key Largo Holiday Inn, 99701 Overseas Hwy, Key Largo, FL
At both meetings, park staff will be available to discuss the project, answer questions and record public comments. At 6:30 P.M., there will be a presentation about the project, followed by a formal public comment session.
Through the park’s website: http:www.nps.gov/ever and the homepage link under "Everglades National Park Planning - Proposed Florida Bay Pole and Troll Zone."