Tuesday, July 24, 2007
Carmel on the Case: Boating Brouhaha
A plan that would close much of Everglades National Park to boats with motors has caused a tidal wave of controversy. Investigative reporter Carmel Cafiero is On the Case with this Boating Brouhaha.
WSVN -- It was lunch time for the dolphins at Everglades National Park. They are just a few of the animals that call the park home.
But this jewel is under attack, from hurricanes to man, and, to deal with it, the National Park service is in the process of updating a management plan for the park.
Carmel Cafiero: "The challenge is to develop a plan that protects the park but still allows people to enjoy the park, and that is easier said than done."
One proposal would make huge areas of the park off-limits to boats with motors. That would protect delicate sea grasses, but anglers and business owners in the Keys say it would devastate them.
Jim Trice: "It would essentially eliminate anyone fishing in the park."
Fundrasier Jim Trice says charitable fishing tournaments would lose much needed money. Fishing guides like Larry Sydnor say their business would dry up because people who come from all over the world to fish Everglades National Park would go someplace else.
Larry Sydnor: "All the guides would have to find other jobs, and I don't think our economy could stand it in the Keys."
There's also the potential loss to the local economy if tourists go elsewhere.
Jim Trice: "The overall trickle-down effect, we estimate, would be approximately $60 million a year."
Linda Friar says the National Park service is listening to those concerns.
Linda Friar: "It's not the goal of the park to not have fishing and boating in the park."
However, she points out the park has to be protected and boaters who do damage are a major concern.
Sandy Moret: "It's just a very complicated area to navigate, and you need to know a lot about it to run a boat around there."
Sandy Moret runs a fly fishing school and store in Islamorada. He is part of a group that has come up with an alternative plan for the park, one that would allow motors but require the operators be educated on where and how to run their boats in the park. Information these fishermen apparently didn't have.
Sandy Moret: "Here we are, two minutes behind them, and here you can see a mud trail."
That mud trail means the boat was traveling over a flat, an area of very shallow water, the motor digging into and killing the sea grass below.
Larry Sydnor: "Now here they are over here now. Look, they're on the other side of the flat, and they're dredging."
Larry Sydnor: "They don't know where they're going."
When motors dig up the sea grass, it can take decades to grow back. Here you can see the evidence: a white line called a prop scar where nothing is growing anymore.
Experts believe, with a little education, boaters can learn how to avoid causing this kind of damage. The park service says the alternative plan has merit and is being considered.
Linda Friar: "We recognize that it is a large group that work very hard to provide some innovative solutions to some of the challenges that we're facing."
And while guides and anglers are pleased that the park service is listening, they want the public to speak up.
Tad Burke: "But it's important, the comments that's all they listen to. It takes a really large voice to go about making changes."
Floridians and visitors have enjoyed the park for generations. With the right plan we should be able to enjoy it for generations to come.
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