Everglades National Park reopens with end of federal shutdown

 

scocking@MiamiHerald.com

Everglades National Park reopened to visitors Thursday following a 2 1/2-week closure stemming from the federal government shutdown.

Entrance stations and visitor centers at Homestead, Shark Valley and Everglades City are now open.

Boaters may launch their crafts at the marina at Flamingo where boat tours and rentals also are available. Bike rentals and tram tours are being conducted at Shark Valley, and airboat tours are now open along Tamiami Trail. Ranger-led tours are expected to resume on Friday.

The re-opening means 238 furloughed park employees are back at work, and so are fishing guides who escort anglers to Florida Bay under concession permits with the park. The guides staged a protest demonstration against the shutdown last week near the park border in the Upper Keys.

“The fishing guides have returned. The park is open. We are back in business. Please come out and visit,” said Dan Kimball, superintendent of both Everglades and Dry Tortugas national parks.

Dry Tortugas, a chain of small islands located about 70 miles west of Key West, also opened Thursday. The visitor center and campground at Garden Key are operating, along with seaplane service from Key West. However, park officials said the commercial ferry will not resume service to the islands until Monday.

Biscayne National Park, which had been open to fishing during the closure but nothing else, announced it has re-opened the Dante Fascell Visitor Center and museum. However, Elliott Key Harbor and the campground remain closed. Boat tours and rentals are unavailable because the park’s sole concessioner ceased operations before the government shutdown on Oct. 1.

The resumption of government services Thursday also brought good news for South Florida hikers and hunters. The Big Cypress National Preserve re-opened, allowing hikers to walk into the remote back country and set up camp and hunters to resume muzzle-loading season, which was interrupted by the closure.

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