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.