News Release Date: September 23, 2017
Contact: Mike Litterst, 202-306-4166
Contact: Brent Everitt, 850-393-7952
Contact: Katie Lawhon, 717-253-5776
Homestead, Fla. – Boca Chita Key at Biscayne National Park reopened today, welcoming park visitors for the first time since Hurricane Irma struck. The National Park Service (NPS) is working to safely reopen 13 additional national parks that remain closed or partially closed after the storm.
The NPS Eastern Incident Management Team currently has 367 laborers, saw teams, arborists, heavy equipment operators and other employees on the ground in South Florida, along the Atlantic coast and in the Caribbean, clearing debris and working to safely reopen parks damaged by Hurricane Irma. The Incident Management Team is now finishing its second week of operations and is composed of NPS employees from 95 national parks in 35 states.
The Incident Management Team’s immediate objectives are to support employee emergency needs, especially for staff in the six national parks in the Caribbean hit hard by Hurricane Maria. Additional objectives are to conduct damage assessments, and remove debris in the affected areas. Updates on recovery efforts are listed below.
The public is reminded that many parks are closed to all use, including motorists, cyclists and pedestrians, due to safety concerns during cleanup operations.
News from the field - September 23:
Caribbean National Parks
All six national parks in the Caribbean are closed in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. Damage assessments and recovery efforts will resume when employee accountability and emergency needs have been completed and addressed.
South Florida National Parks
- The preserve remains closed to all visitor use and access is limited to land owners only.
- Electrical power has been restored to some preserve facilities.
- Tarps are in place on the damaged roofs of a maintenance building and the ranger station.
- The paved section of the Loop Road (approximately 6 miles) is clear.
- Water treatment plant is online.
- The preserve lifted its “boil water” advisory.
- Boca Chita Key at Biscayne National Park reopened today; all other Biscayne National Park facilities are closed, including the Dante Fascell Visitor Center, and Elliott and Adams Keys.
- Park waters are open for navigation, although boaters are advised to use extreme caution. A marine advisory has been posted to notify mariners of hazards in the waters surrounding the park.
- A saw crew is removing hazard trees and clearing debris.
- Repairs in progress at University Dock.
- Terrestrial areas of the park, including all areas at Garden Key and Loggerhead Key, remain closed to the public.
- The dock at Dry Tortugas is closed to public use.
- Marine waters of the park, including Garden Key Harbor and Bird Key Harbor, are open for access. A marine advisory has been issued advising mariners of hazards in the waters. Users of mooring buoys assume all risk.
- The Dry Tortugas vessel, Fort Jefferson, will be used to transport supplies and resources to national parks in the Caribbean.
- The campground has been cleared.
- The parade ground is being cleared.
- Saw crews are continuing to remove downed and damaged trees.
- Staff are placing barricades at the damaged sections of the moat wall.
- Terrestrial areas of the park remain closed while park waters are open for access, to include commercial permit holders of Everglades National Park.
- Boaters should be advised that the Flamingo Marina is closed and no services are available there.
- Areas east of the L-67 Canal and south to Buzzards Roost/Grossman's Ridge (commonly known as East Everglades) have opened for private airboating. Boaters should be advised that the only public launch site available is located east of Coopertown. The park cannot be accessed via SW 168th Street until power lines and other hazards have been addressed.
- Staff continues to locate derelict vessels (currently 25) along the Gulf Coast and in Florida Bay. Staff are inspecting the vessels and posting them with the National Crime Information Center.
- Saw crews and an Arborist Incident Response team are working on damaged and downed trees along the main park road, from the entrance to Flamingo.
- Natural Resource Advisors are working with the park’s Air Operations staff to inspect remote areas to determine accessibility to monitoring stations.
Atlantic Coast National Parks
- Camping reservations have been cancelled through October 11.
- A scheduled hunt on the island on October 16-18 has been cancelled.
- There are 37 derelict and 10 sunken vessels along the St. Marys waterfront. The U.S. Coast Guard is taking the lead on clearing the area, with boat salvage underway.
- Saw crews and an Arborist Incident Response team are working to open the main road for the entire the length of island.
- Clean up at the visitor center, museum and warehouse on mainland is ongoing.
- Water in the elevator shaft was pumped out.
- Staff are drying wooden floors and removing sheet rock.
- The park remains closed due to pending hazard tree removal.
- Emergency metal conservation treatment on cannons is underway.
- Staff are cleaning the entrance station, and clearing mud from the fort and visitor center area.
- Work to remove fallen and damaged trees on the Dike Trail continues.
- Staff will be installing new doors on the pump house today.
- Plans are being developed for repairs to the damaged roof.
- The pump house/water system needs major repairs.