Zinke caps permit fees for Everglades

Everglades National Park and local fishing guides seemed to be making progress on proposed fees to the park’s commercial use authorization permit program and entrance fee structure pre-Irma. Commercial use permits allow private businesses, like fishing guides, to operate within federal lands and waters.

“The last meeting we had seemed to go very well,” said Florida Keys Fishing Guides Association Commodore Steve Friedman of discussions with park officials prior to the storm.

Local fishing organizations strongly opposed proposed price hikes in August – pointing to the undue burden the proposals would cause. Then along came Irma and added more to an already full plate.

Everglades National Park itself was beat up. Its Gulf Coast visitor’s center and facility management center were destroyed. Storm surge and wind downed trees, and littered roads with vegetation.

Following the destruction, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke visited the park.

“Secretary Zinke came to personally assess the damage caused by Hurricane Irma and ensure the well being of his NPS team in South Florida,” said Pedro Ramos, superintendent of Everglades and Dry Tortugas national parks.

Over in the Shark Valley area of the park, high water levels have kept trails closed. Gulf Coast, where the visitor’s center was destroyed, also remains closed. The park’s main road is open up to the Flamingo visitor center, where services are still limited.

“We’re now looking to a phased re-opening of this important attraction in South Florida as soon as possible, hopefully within the next several weeks,” said Ramos. “We’re working hard to re-establish full services at Flamingo, and are looking forward to working with our new concessionaire, GSI, this fall as they transition into business at Everglades National Park. All in all, we expect to have the ability to operate a great 2017-2018 season for

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