Everglades National Park Access Restrictions

Everglades National Park Access Restrictions

Everglades National Park, located at the southern end of Florida, is the third largest national park in the lower 48 states, and is visited on average by one million people each year. One-third of Everglades National Park is covered by water, creating excellent boating and fishing opportunities in the thousands of acres of shallow water flats, channels and mangrove keys in which to fish.

In August 2015, the National Park Service released the final General Management Plan (GMP) for Everglades National Park, which includes several changes that will affect boating and fishing access and habitat conservation in the park. The recreational fishing and boating community expressed its collective appreciation to Everglades National Park officials for making meaningful progress to improve habitat conservation and allow for public access during the GMP development process that played out over several years.

After serious concerns were raised over the draft GMP and the potential for reduced public access to the park’s waters, park officials worked closely with members of the recreational fishing and boating community to identify ways to better facilitate access while minimizing boating impacts to important habitat, primarily seagrass.

One significant change of which boaters should be aware is a future mandatory boater education and boating permit system.

Our Position

ASA urged the Park Service to incorporate the input provided by local recreational fishermen and boaters which includes specific recommendations for providing access corridors, ensuring the zones are properly sized, providing adequate signage and proper education and outreach for anglers and boaters.

ASA and its partners will remain engaged with Everglades National Park officials to ensure that the GMP reflects the importance of allowing reasonable and responsible public access to the park’s waters.

Issue Background

The Park Service first proposed an updated GMP in 2007. After a rewrite, a new plan was brought forward in 2009, but delayed by federal budget issues. In March 2013, a revised GMP was released for public comment. Of particular interest to the sportfishing community, the GMP preferred alternative proposes that “approximately 131,392 acres in the shallows of Florida bay would be managed as pole-or-troll zones to better protect the sea bottom, including wilderness resources, seagrass beds and important ecological habitats.”

In total, the poll-and-troll zones proposed in the preferred alternative account for 33 percent of Florida Bay inside the park boundaries. Boaters would be allowed to use push poles or trolling motors in these areas, but because many of these areas are several miles wide and lack channels or corridors for motorized access, many popular fishing areas would become virtually inaccessible.

Also proposed in the preferred alternative is a mandatory boater education process for those who navigate on Florida Bay's park waters. Permits would be issued after some type of educational session.

During the public comment period for the draft GMP, ASA worked with local fishing and boating groups to develop recommendations to improve access in relation to the proposed pole and troll zones. Specific recommendations included providing access corridors, ensuring the zones are properly sized, providing adequate signage and proper education and outreach for anglers and boaters.

Throughout 2013 and early 2014, the recreational fishing and boating community had several discussions with Everglades National Park officials about ensuring reasonable boating access is maintained in the park. Click here to view comments provided by ASA and its partners.

In August 2015, the National Park Service released the final GMP for Everglades National Park, which includes several changes that will affect boating and fishing access and habitat conservation in the park. The recreational fishing and boating community expressed its collective appreciation to Everglades National Park officials for making meaningful progress to improve habitat conservation and allow for public access during the GMP development process that played out over several years.

After serious concerns were raised over the draft GMP and the potential for reduced public access to the park’s waters, park officials worked closely with members of the recreational fishing and boating community to identify ways to better facilitate access while minimizing boating impacts to important habitat, primarily seagrass.

One significant change of which boaters should be aware is a future mandatory boater education and boating permit system.