Online map on Everglades park plan a work in progress
The future of navigation in Florida Bay is here and it’s confusing — or maybe it’s just that a picture is worth a thousand words and we don’t have the whole picture yet.
This is about Everglades National Park’s long-planned attempt to stop the scarring of Florida Bay’s seagrass flats by motorboat propellers. The park reported in mid-March that a dozen of 31 new navigation “corridors” through and around the flats had been completed, mostly south and east of the Flamingo launch ramps. The rest are timetabled for completion by the end of April.
Some confusion — maybe nearly all — could be pinned to an online interactive map that’s still a work in progress. We tried it out on the office desktop computer and it told us that, uh-oh, we didn’t seem to be out there on the water.
Pretty clever, eh? No telling what that thing will be able to figure out once it’s perfected, with all the little channels, routes and poling-trolling zones identified at last. We’ll give you a computer link to it below.
If you’ve followed the park’s general management plan more or less closely through the years, you’ve seen static versions of that map with little red squiggles sprinkled all over Florida Bay. Those are the corridors. The interactive map is supposed to bring them more or less to life.
It may be easier for you to use in April than it was for us in March, but none of us will be able to rely on it entirely until after the project is finished and, eventually, the new scheme is published on GPS navigation charts.
Still on it are a bunch of old channels, some of which eventually will be closed and incorporated into numerous pole-and-troll zones that are being marked off.
Unlike the rules for no-motor zones in the park’s deep back country, fishing-doers will be allowed to keep stinkpot engines trimmed up on the stern and use push poles and trolling motors to cross the flats.
On a few larger ones, we’ll even be able to chug across at idle speed with our big engines as long as the tide leaves enough water under the props to avoid digging up sand and grass.
In the beginning, the plan looked like way too much of a good thing. Skiff guides and other fishing-doers hollered that the physical demands of push-poling across large flats, often against the wind, were not only daunting but forbidding.
They were right; the first version of the bay map included some pole/troll zones so large that, if implemented, they would be unfishable without risking a violation.
Dan Kimball, the since-retired park superintendent, and Fred Herling, his planning director, realized that our crowd had a good point. They worked closely with the Florida Keys Fishing Guides Association and other interests to modify the plan into something we can all live with while still protecting the bay’s fragile natural resources.
Considering how poorly the national parks — not only Everglades but also Biscayne and Dry Tortugas — have been supported for decades by a stingy Congress, it’s appropriate to wonder how Everglades could afford to undertake a project like this.
Here is Everglades’ answer: “This project is made possible by the National Park Service and generous donations to the South Florida National Parks Trust from Yamaha, the American Sportfishing Association, and the Herman Lucerne Memorial Foundation.”
Because neither the project itself nor the interactive map is finished yet, anglers on Florida Bay should rely for now on both their printed and electronic navigation charts and watch for the newly-posted aids to navigation.
Here’s a direct link to the interactive map and more details about the channels and other navigation corridors, the pole/troll and idle-engine zones: www.nps.gov/ever/learn/management/florida-bay-new-access-corridor-marker....
If you’re not on the computer right now, when you do get there go to www.nps.gov/ever and look on the home page for the headline “New Access Corridor Markers & Signs.”