NPCA Proposes Rebuilding Guidelines for the Flamingo Area of Everglades National Park

Flamingo Lodge, before the 2005 hurricanes raked the Flamingo area of Everglades National Park.

Gentler on the landscape. That's a key factor in the National Parks Conservation Association's vision for redeveloping the Flamingo area of Everglades National Park that was devastated by hurricanes Katrina and Wilma in a one-two punch back in 2005.

In unveiling its thoughts for the park's Flamingo Commercial Services Plan, the advocacy group maintained that the "new Flamingo should leave a reduced footprint, incorporate 'green' architecture, and restore the park's natural habitats."

That said, the NPCA endorsed Alternative C of the commercial services plan Everglades officials released last month. During the next few weeks park officials will hold public hearings on that document. All public comments must be received by Friday, January 25th.

The two hurricanes either destroyed or severely damaged all existing structures in the Flamingo area, including a visitor’s center, lodge, restaurant, and cabins. The only overnight accommodation in the park, Flamingo has long been a popular destination for anglers, boaters, birders, campers and paddlers.

While supporting Alternative C, the NPCA also listed six "basic principles" it felt should guide Flamingo's redevelopment:

* A reduced footprint: The new Flamingo should produce a considerably smaller footprint on the land than currently exists. The site planning process should focus on “walkable” development, increased services, and opportunities for visitor experience could be provided in a much smaller area.

* Restoration and protection of natural habitat: The redevelopment process must include elements of restoring natural habitat and protecting the habitats that could be impacted by visitors. There may also be opportunities for achieving some protection from storm surge by restoring mangrove habitats as a buffer between Florida Bay and the developed part of Flamingo.

* “Green” design and architecture: Everglades National Park should take advantage of the considerable thought, imagination, and progress currently being made in the area of green architecture. Structure design should maximize passive cooling and resistance to wind and storm surge and utilize recycled materials.

* A variety of visitor experiences: Flamingo is most famous for fishing, and fishing will likely always be a centerpiece of visitor services offered at Flamingo. The potential for a wider variety of experiences, however, including canoeing, birding, hiking, biking, and walking is tremendous. The old Flamingo offered all of these opportunities, however, the design of the place made them less than optimal. Other services, such as storytelling, campfires, and children’s activities could also enhance Flamingo’s appeal as a destination for families.

* Creating a “sense of place”: The new Flamingo should reflect the history and culture of the area and the region. Part of the mission of the National Park Service is to preserve cultural and historic resources. This mission has not been particularly emphasized at Everglades National Park in the past, but could be at Flamingo. Choices of architecture, landscape design, and services could capture a sense of “old Florida,” which would be unique in the south Dade region.

* Connect with Gateway Communities: Everglades National Park should explore opportunities to form connections between Flamingo and the surrounding gateway communities of Homestead and Florida City.

To learn more about NPCA's proposal, and to view renderings of its vision, visit this site.