Everglades National Park has obtained approval to proceed with a plan to redesign the most developed area of the park with an emphasis on promoting sustainability. Through building design, alternative energy, and improved transportation systems, the park area known as “Flamingo” will be reborn as an example for other parks to follow.
Flamingo is near the very bottom tip of Florida’s mainland, and in 2005, Hurricanes Katrina and Wilma landed a knock-out punch to what was until then a heavily visited area. Damage from the hurricanes effectively destroyed a dilapidated but popular lodge, its restaurant, and numerous other facilities– leaving virtually no place for park visitors to stay overnight in the park if not camping.
The park was pressured by numerous groups to rebuild overnight visitor facilities as soon as possible. After releasing several plans and receiving public comment, the park has selected a plan that blends sustainable ideas with creature comforts. I myself used to work as a park ranger in Flamingo, and I think the plan is brilliant. There’s only one catch: the park has no idea where to get the estimated $20-23 million it needs to bring the plan to fruition.
My feeling though is that when you’ve got a good plan and a strong desire for action, then you will find investors to help you make it happen.
These are some of the cooler elements to the plan:
- All new buildings will be built on stilts, reducing potential hurricane damage. A 30-room lodge with a restaurant inside will be the center of activity.
- 12 duplex cottages and 40 intriguing and novel eco-tent structures will also be built.
- Solar energy will be used to heat showers in the lodge, campground restrooms, and to provide energy for fans and lights.
- Approximately 50 acres will be restored to their natural condition. Most of this land will be made available by restoring infrequently used campground areas.
- Rainwater will be collected in cisterns for non-potable uses.
- RV sites in the campground will be outfitted with solar-powered hookups that will help reduce noise pollution from RV generators.
- New pathways for walking will be constructed and a “Yellow Bike” program initiated that will allow for visitors to use free bikes to get to and from the area’s trails and attractions.
- A free shuttle will move people around the area and reduce private car use.
- Recycled plastic lumber will be used to construct walkways rather than wood.
Why is Flamingo so popular? What do people do there?
If you are wondering why Flamingo is so popular, it sits right on Florida Bay, making it a good spot to launch fishing and canoe/kayak trips. The area also showcases the park’s abundant wildlife and plants. They include an incredible diversity of wading birds like herons, alligators, snakes, insects (most notably the mosquito– which the area is also famous for), orchids, mangrove trees, and strangler fig trees. The heat and mosquitoes can make living conditions intolerable at many times of the year in the Everglades, and for this reason Flamingo and Everglades National Park are at their best in the winter months.
If you would like to read more about the park’s plan to rebuild Flamingo, you can read the official press release at the park’s website. Click here if you want to download a PDF of the detailed plan which provides interesting mock-up illustrations of the eco-tents and lodge. The Miami Herald also recently printed an article that provides an excellent background on Flamingo and the park’s new plan to rejuvenate the area.