Informative Weekend
July, not a nice month of the year in the Big Cypress Swamp, we agree.
Hot, Humid and all the mosquitoes you ever thought there could be.
Who would ask  someone to talk in the swamp? Why that would be me.
And who would meet deep in the swamp to see,
what questions might be asked of thee.
Why, that would be Carol Clark, on a day of the week, she is normally free.

On a hot, humid Saturday, Carol Clark, Acting Superintendent of the Big Cypress National Preserve agreed to meet  with private land owners to discuss concerns over the proposed location of the designated trails. We met deep in the swamp, at the NPS back county camp (Calusa), in the Little Deer area. This allowed the land owners to get to know Carol and other NPS people on an informal basis and we were located close to the problem areas, if we needed to go take a look at them. Our concern about the location of the designated trails revolved around our concern about the security of private property nearby. After a discussion, it was agree to pick a designated trail  route through the area, that would provide for security of the private properties and provide ORV access for all.

Since we were having a cordial and open discussion, we asked some other more general questions.  The answers would be of interest to others that visit the Big Cypress National Preserve. They follow:

Construction of the sustainable designated trails:
The NPS does not expect they will be able to continue construction of the sustainable trails this spring at the rate originally anticipated, because construction funding with the NPS is often at risk due to other emergency needs, Home Land security, etc. They will need to see how the remaining funds are allocated when Congress reconvenes. With the remaining funds from this past year, NPS will continue determining where the designated trails will be located, will maintain the trails and will implement them per the ORV plan.


Ingress and Egress to Private Property:
We discussed ingress and egress to private camps. These trails will be considered secondary trails and will be marked private with a sign. They can be used by property owner and guests, not the public. They will be un-improved and must be on a currently existing trail. There will be only one way to and from the private property, from the designated trails.

Secondary Trails:
There can be existing trails designated as secondary trails, requested by anyone, that will go to a favorite spot, such as a camp site or hunting spot. These will be public trails, but un-improved. They will be short trails from a primary designated trail, and will get less use, then the main trail.  I also got the impression that a group of people would need to get together  and request  these trails. Apparently there are still miles of trails available, from the ORV plan that have not been assigned. in the designated trail system. So as to not impact the permitted number of acres for fill allowed under the Army Corp of Engineer permit, these secondary trails will remain un-improved.
When a secondary trial is requested, the ORV plan will be followed as to requirements and to determine the exact location of the trail.

  Gates at Trail Heads of designated trails:
The designated trails are going to have locked gates on them. When an ORV license is issued, the combination code will be given to the ORV owner. NPS has started installing the gates already, but are not locking them. The same code will work on all the trail gates. They are having a problem with non registered vehicles accessing the Preserve right now.
Currently off-roaders, that don't pay the ORV fee, are roaming the preserve, Damage they do will be perceived by others as being done by the sportsmen that register ORVs and that would not be good for us sportsmen. We need to cooperate with the minor inconvenience that going through the gate will cause us.

Long term ORV Parking:
Asked about long term parking for ORVs. They said they are providing   ORV towing parking in phase 3, but plans are not developed yet. I asked if they are considering long term parking, (i.e.: 5 months or so)? They said no. I asked can they consider long term parking in their plans and they said they can look at it. They had a short discussion about preferring turning long term parking over to a concessionaire. They have a concern about ending up with abandoned ORVs. They mentioned some "out of the box thinking" for a concessionaire, where a ORV would be stored off site and then trailered to the parking lot when the owner wanted to use it. Sort of like in and out dry storage at a marina. I told them a concessionaire needed to be reasonably priced. I hope they consider some "in the box thinking" like onsite long term parking, lets say at Monroe Station.

  Stands (tree) to be Removed out of Season:
Asked why stands have to be removed after hunting season and  how about year round photography from stands?
Several  reasons were given as to why. They consider a stand left in place as a permanent stand. The public has equal access to the Preserve and a permanent stand is claiming a spot and is not allowing equal access to the public. Second reason, revolves around abandoned property. Anything left unattended 24 hours, in the Preserve is considered abandoned. The superintendent has the discretion to allow items to be in place longer then 24 hours, so allowing stands to be left in place the hunting season, has been allowed at the superintendents discretion. They say they will consider  the issue of photography , and maybe the issuance of a special permit for photography on a stand, out of season, can be considered. Its under consideration.

Bicycles on Designated Trails:
Asked if bicycles are considered ORVs? answer "no".
Are bicycles allowed on the designated trails? answer "yes". Carol said they are allowed, but they don't promote it. I said that the NPS web site says "Bear Island is a great place to ride bikes and that bikes are welcome on any of the designated trails". She had no further comment.
Are bicycles allowed off the designated trails? answer "no".

  Monroe Station:
The discussion of  long term parking brought up a discussion of Monroe Station itself. Monroe Station  has been designated on the National Register of Historic Places, a couple of years ago. That was done without the knowledge of the Superintendent, by NPS in Atlanta. Carol said they are determining what portion of it can be saved, because of its poor condition.
The preserve has applied for a grant from the Department of Transportation to provide funding to try and rehab part of the building

Asked if Geocaching is allowed in the Preserve? answer "no". They remove any Geocache found in the Preserve. They have a problem with Geocaching, because it leads people into wilderness situations that the people are not prepared for and the NPS ends up with rescue situations to deal with.
Geocaching is a modern day version of a scavenger hunt, using GPS units. See

  Calusa Camp (NPS outback camp):
Asked what the public use of Calusa camp would be? answer "none".
I told them Calvin Stones relatives are interested in visiting Calusa camp, would it be possible for them to stay at Calusa? answer "yes, under a special permit".
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Story by Steve - July, 2004