News Release Date: September 24, 2017
Contact: Mike Litterst, 202-306-4166
Contact: Brent Everitt, 850-393-7952
Contact: Katie Lawhon, 717-253-5776
Homestead, Fla. –Dry Tortugas National Park, a cluster of seven islands composed of coral reefs and sand almost 70 miles west of Key West, will reopen Monday, September 25, National Park Service officials have announced. The area is known for its famous bird and marine life, its legends of pirates and sunken gold, and its military past. It closed during preparations for Hurricane Irma and is now opening for the first time since the storm.
Most areas of the park, including the campground will be open with limited activities and a partial closure of the moat wall. Ferry operations from Key West will resume October 28.
In addition to Dry Tortugas, the National Park Service (NPS) is working to safely reopen a dozen other national parks that remain closed or partially closed due to impacts from Hurricanes Irma and Maria.
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 beginning its third 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 24:
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 addressed and completed.
South Florida National Parks
Big Cypress National Preserve – CLOSED
- 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.
- The preserve remains closed to all visitor use and access is limited to land owners only.
- Boca Chita Key is open; all other 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 on Elliott and Adams Keys.
- Repairs are in progress at University Dock and Convoy Point.
- Dry Tortugas National Park will open to recreation and camping in all areas at 8 a.m. on September 25 except the following which have been temporarily closed:
- Small sections of the moat wall walk around Fort Jefferson on Garden Key;
- The area immediately around the wrecked sailboat on the northeast shore of Bush Key;
- The dock at Loggerhead Key is closed to boat use and foot traffic due to missing deck boards;
- The area immediately around the previously collapsed Boathouse;
- The park’s gift shop.
- A Notice to Mariners is in effect for the navigation channels within the park due to missing or damaged aids to navigation. Proceed with caution.
- Users of mooring buoys within the park assume all risk.
- Terrestrial areas of the park remain closed. Park waters are open, including use by commercial permit holders of Everglades National Park.
- Boaters are advised that the Flamingo Marina is closed and no services are available.
- 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
Cumberland Island National Seashore (Ga.) - CLOSED
- Camping reservations have been cancelled through October 11.
- A hunt on the island scheduled for 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 the mainland is ongoing.
- Water in the elevator shaft was pumped out.
- Staff are drying wooden floors and removing sheet rock.
- Visitor Center area of the park remains closed pending removal of hazard limbs and trees.
- Beach and Island areas of the park are open to the public.
- Fort will remain inaccessible to the public until repairs to ferry boats can be completed.
- 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.
Additional updates on the status of these parks can be found at http://go.nps.gov/hurricane.