Mainland boaters largely cut off from Florida Bay are getting a reprieve: Everglades National Park will reopen the Flamingo marina and boat ramps Monday.
Allowing water access to the nation’s 10th-largest national park, and its web of inlets and rivers, will give visitors a chance “to spread out a little more,” superintendent Pedro Ramos said in a statement, even while social distancing guidelines remain in place.
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After Miami-Dade County shut down parks in late March, the park service closed the Flamingo marina, onshore campgrounds, trails and other facilities. Park waters have remained open, but with the boat ramp off-limits and a checkpoint at the Overseas Highway, mainland boaters, kayakers and paddleboarders had limited access to the bay.
Monday’s reopening follows Miami-Dade park openings on Wednesday that included ramps and marinas. The marina store, fuel pumps, fish-cleaning stations and bathrooms will also be open along with outside bathrooms at the Coe visitor center.
The National Parks Conservation Association opposes park openings as COVID-19 cases continue to spread across the country. On Friday, Florida confirmed more than a thousand new cases. They were opening too soon will put park staffs and visitors at risk and caring for patients could be tricky in remote areas where some parks are located.
"People may feel safe outdoords, but national park sites are not designed to accommodate basic physical distancing guidelines," NPCA president Theresa Pierno wrote a blog post. Many park staffs also lack protective gear she said.
More public areas, including the popular Anahinga Trail and Shark Valley, will remain closed. Visitor centers, at both the main entrance and Everglades City entrance, bike rentals, campgrounds and concessions for tours also remain closed. A return to full operations will be phased in over time, the park's statement said.
More information can be found at www.nps.gov/ever.