With an eye on people's needs, as well as on climate change and the possibility of more potent and more frequent tropical storms and hurricanes, Everglades National Park officials have come up with a portable tent of sorts for visitor housing at Flamingo.
The somewhat Spartan looking tents can sleep four and come with a table and chairs as well as a picnic table and fire ring. Plus, if a storm is on the way, the tents can be easily moved out of danger.
It's a long way from the more substantial lodging proposal park officials had considered back in 2010, one that called for an "eco-friendly" destination, one with a 30-unit lodge, two dozen cottages, "eco-tents," and a new marina, but it also takes into account today's realities.
Flamingo was hit hard by a hurricane in 2005, and the heavily damaged Flamingo Lodge was razed in 2009. Its loss was greatly mourned by park visitors who held fond memories of staying there. While park officials came up with a plan to replace the lodge, that 2010 lodging proposal with its $78 million price tag was deemed too expensive by Park Service Director Jon Jarvis, especially in light of the park's history with storms and the short occupancy season (summer is too buggy for most Everglades visitors).
After the decision was made to start over, Everglades officials began to consider a mix of mobile units, perhaps something like the tent cabins used at Yosemite National Park or maybe some sort of trailer facility, along with more hardened cottages that could withstand hurricanes and yet be movable. They even considered something similar to the screen-lined 15-by-15-foot cottages (with twin beds and electricity and central restrooms a short walk away) at Cinnamon Bay at Virgin Islands National Park.
What they settled for, at least on a trial basis for the coming winter months, is an "eco-tent" designed by the University of Miami Architecture Program with guidance from the park. One of the tents will be set up near the existing campground, which is still open for RVers and tent campers, and be available for the coming months. The nightly rate for the tent will be $16 per night from this Friday through April 14, though it will jump to $30 per night when a solar-LED light system is installed.
Since the park only has one tent for the winter, stays will be limited to three nights per party. A restroom/shower facility is about 50 yards away for use by both eco-tent occupants and nearby tent campers. For this trial tent, folks will need to be bring air mattresses or sleeping pads and bedding.
With Everglades getting ready to issue a concessions prospectus for the Flamingo area, the winning concessionaire might agree or be required to install more eco-tents, if this winter's trial run proves successful.
"The goal is to have this eco-tent help inform NPS managers, potential bidders and the selected concessioner on design, function, amenities of additional tents should they be part of the next contract," explained Fred Herling, the park's planner. "Also, we expect that proposals will respond with additional details on amenities/features."
That eventual concessions contract also might require that eco-tents be outfitted with lights, celing fans, bedding, etc.
For phone reservations call 239-695-0124 (6 a.m. to 6 p.m.) or drop by the Flamingo Campground registration booth for in-person reservations.