A vision for rebuilding the Flamingo area of Everglades National Park calls for an "eco-friendly" destination, one with a 30-unit lodge, two dozen cottages, "eco-tents," and a new marina.
The once-popular area of the park was hit hard by a hurricane in 2005, and the heavily damaged Flamingo Lodge was razed last year. Its loss was greatly mourned by park visitors who held fond memories of staying there.
After much waiting, Everglades officials on Thursday officially released their master plan for rebuilding the area. It calls for $78 million to be invested in six phases. Among the proposed improvements:
* A new 30-unit lodge (2 elevated buildings) would replace the old, sprawling motel buildings, providing modest hotel-like accommodations near Florida Bay and within easy walking distance to the visitor center, marina, restaurant, pool, and amphitheater. Cottages
* Twenty-four elevated cottages (1 and 2-bedroom units) in 12 duplex buildings would replace the old ground-level cottages.
* The marina peninsula would be redesigned and become an improved hub for water-based recreational activities. The current marina building would be replaced with an elevated structure, while redesigned public use and parking areas would improve waterfront viewing and gathering spaces, and pedestrian and vehicular circulation.
* This facility would be renovated and remain the first stop and main hub for visitor information, orientation, interpretation and check in for overnight stays. The former Flamingo restaurant space would be converted to the new visitor center, offering outstanding views onto Florida Bay, an ideal location to educate and orient visitors.
* There would be a wider range of camping options for visitors including re-designed walk-In tent sites, a new group camping area, and 40 eco-tent sites (that would operate during the peak visitor season).
All camping areas would be located adjacent to Florida Bay and along a bay-front trail.
The eco-tents would be located along the Florida Bay shoreline and would be taken down during the hurricane season, according to the proposal.
Under the plan, about 50 acres of previously developed land would be restored to natural conditions. The master plan will be integrated into the park's general management plan, a draft of which is due out next year.
According to the master plan, the redesigned Flamingo area would be pedestrian and bike friendly, as well as hurricane and "climate change resistant."