For the first time since the one-two knockout punch from Hurricanes Katrina and Wilma more than seven years ago, Everglades National Park is offering enclosed, overnight accommodations for visitors to Flamingo.
Park officials announced Wednesday that the Flamingo campground is accepting reservations for a 14-by-14-foot eco-tent that can accommodate a family of five for $16 per night — a great price for a waterfront view only steps from scenic Florida Bay.
Park superintendent Dan Kimball said it’s a prototype for future lodgings to replace the cottages, cabins and lodge at Flamingo destroyed by storm surge from the two 2005 hurricanes. Kimball said the eco-tent can be easily dismantled and stored during hurricane season, which runs from June 1 through Nov. 30.
“You don’t have to be a PhD, hydrologist, ecologist or meteorologist to see this is a vulnerable site to climate change and sea level rise,” Kimball told a small gathering at a ribbon-cutting ceremony Wednesday at the campground. “We had to be climate-change smart and investment-smart.”
The weather-resistant fabric tent mounted on a wooden platform was designed and built by students at the University of Miami School of Architecture. It cost about $17,000, which came mostly from donations by the South Florida National Parks Trust and several others.
“We hope everybody uses it and enjoys it,” UM architecture professor Rocco Ceo said. “We’d like to have 20 more of these built out here.”
Kimball said more eco-tents likely will be part of a new, long-term concessions contract for a rebuilt Flamingo.
The park had to scale back redevelopment plans that were put forward several years ago because of budget constraints and concerns about vulnerabilities of new construction in hurricane-prone areas.
“Stay tuned because what you’re looking at behind me is what we have in mind,” Kimball said, standing on the steps of the eco-tent.
The structure is furnished with bed frames and a table and chair. Solar lights will be installed in January, when the fee will go up to $30 per night. Seniors can get a 50 percent discount.
Park officials say the new lodging — available through April 14 — started booking up fast, even before Wednesday’s official announcement.
For reservations and more information, call 239-695-0124 from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily or stop by the Flamingo campground registration booth.