Everglades To Host Another Meeting on Managing Boats

Powerboats running through shallow waters damage seagrass beds in Everglades National Park.

Concerns by powerboaters that they might be banned from portions of Everglades National Park in the future have prompted park officials to schedule another public meeting on proposals for managing boating in the park.

As I pointed out last month, this is a highly charged issue. Some boaters feel they are being wrongly singled out and being denied access, while conservationists say the park's ecosystem is being damaged by the boats' props.

As the accompanying USGS picture shows, boats running through shallow waters do tend to slice up the seagrass beds in Florida Bay that are home to fish. Too, according to a story the other day in the News-Press of southwest Florida, there are concerns about how powerboaters impact both wilderness qualities in the park and canoers and kayakers.

Park planners cite two main areas of concern: Powerboats running in too-shallow waters cut long trenches, called prop scars, through the seagrass beds that are the primary fish habitat in Florida Bay. The park service has no statistics, but planner Fred Herling said extrapolations from a 1995 state study put the combined grass losses at up to 10,000 acres. Powerboats also disturb nesting and fledgling birds.

In addition, planners cite the safety of kayakers and canoeists who could be collisions with powerboats. Paddlers, they say, also deserve a wilderness experience that would require separation from powerboat wakes and noise.

The additional meeting is set for tomorrow evening from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Edison College, Collier County Campus, Building J, Rooms 103-104.

Comments

It is visible to see what power boaters are doing,pictures don't lie.There are people who care,and the people who don't care are the ones to blame.Why not take the power boating completely out and have boats with no motors, enjoy the nature,get back to basics,like the indians did,whats wrong with that???

It's a complex issue. Fishermen with motorboats are the primary users of the park. It's been that way for most of them since they were kids and passed down through generations.
The park consists of two very different eco systems The Florida Bay (southern) system is a clean water, shallow grass flat that is sensitive to groundings by boaters. The area north of NW Cape consists of turbid water with high levels of fresh runoff and solids that do not allow light penetration, thus no sea grasses to speak of.

A complicating factor is the agreement covering turning the park land over from Florida (as a state park) to the Federal Government. The agreement protects Florida residents use of the park as unfettered access for recreational purposes. The powerboaters know this document has been used successfully to protect destruction of hunting camps in the Big Cypress Reserve, which was all the same state park and under this same document. Restricting powerboats from areas for exclusive use of non-powered craft will start the legal process all over again and the Park Service lost the last round as a precident.