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Contact: Allyson Gantt, 786-610-8023
HOMESTEAD, Fla. — Everglades National Park today announced the start of construction to replace the half-mile boardwalk trail at West Lake, damaged by Hurricane Irma in 2017. The project is supported by construction funds allocated through Public Law 115-123 for national park units significantly impacted by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria. For the safety of our visitors and the construction crew, the entire West Lake area is now closed to the public until the project is completed in early 2022.
West Lake is a popular interpretive walking trail along the main park road, located seven miles north of Flamingo. Featuring the mangrove ecosystem in the park, the boardwalk winds through a forest of four types of mangrove trees and opens out onto West Lake. The red mangrove’s iconic arching prop roots and the tidal influence in the area pose unique challenges for constructing a boardwalk.
In September 2017, the boardwalk sustained significant structural damage from Hurricane Irma, especially where the trail was exposed on the lake. Mangroves are known for providing protection from hurricane storm surges and are an important coastal ecosystem. In this case, park officials suspect a microburst from the storm caused the considerable damage that left the boardwalk mangled.
“We are pleased to begin this project to restore full access to a trail that introduces visitors to one of our most intriguing and important ecosystems in the park,” said Pedro Ramos, superintendent of Everglades and Dry Tortugas national parks. “Improving sustainability and ensuring good wildlife mitigation efforts during construction are cornerstones of this project.”
Since the West Lake parking lot is a regular site for crocodile nesting, mitigation measures are being implemented in advance of crocodile nesting season, which begins March 1. The project is expected to be completed early next year.
The existing West Lake boardwalk will be demolished and reconstructed in the same horizontal layout. The new boardwalk will utilize flow-through decking material made of fiberglass reinforced polymer. All supporting beams and joists will be heavy timber construction.
The boardwalk has been designed to be more robust than the current structure to address relative sea level rise and increased storm intensity. The larger timber piles will be installed deeper than the existing piles and spaced more closely together to increase stability. The walking surface will be raised one to two feet in elevation from the current structure, and the flow-through design of the decking will help mitigate storm surge uplift. The new boardwalk will comply with the Architectural Barriers Act Accessibility Standard (ABAAS).
The entire West Lake area will be closed and used for staging material and equipment during the full length of the construction project. No public access will be available for the restrooms and small boat launch at this location. The nearest restrooms and boat launch options are located seven miles away at Flamingo.
West Lake and the majority of the West Lake Canoe Trail will remain open but must be accessed by entering Alligator Creek from Garfield Bight in Florida Bay. Paddlecraft and boats with less than six horsepower motors are permissible in West Lake and Alligator Creek.
Last updated: February 17, 2021