EVERGLADES CITY, Fla. — The National Park Service issued a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) for the Environmental Assessment and awarded a new construction contract for the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Visitor Center project in Everglades National Park. This project includes a new two-story building and major site improvements at the location of the former Gulf Coast Visitor Center in Everglades City. Everglades City is where Everglades National Park was dedicated on Dec. 6, 1947.
The original Gulf Coast Visitor Center and surrounding infrastructure were destroyed by Hurricane Irma in September 2017. Since that time, a temporary visitor contact station has been in place to provide orientation for park visitors. This project will build resiliency, enhance the visitor experience and improve the park’s ability to maintain the facilities.
“We are so pleased to announce the award of this contract and get this project moving,” said Pedro Ramos, superintendent of Everglades and Dry Tortugas national parks. “These improvements will provide a premiere place to showcase the Gulf Coast of Everglades National Park and will ultimately contribute to supporting the local economy of Everglades City.”
The two-story visitor center will be built for resiliency to withstand hurricane-force winds and storm surges. The building will include visitor orientation, retail space, staff offices, and an elevated deck with views of Chokoloskee Bay. The elevated building is designed to meet LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) silver requirements and Florida building code for coastal high hazard zones.
Other components of the project include elevating the site to reduce flooding from storm events and king tides, replacing existing bulkhead at the marina, expanding and dredging the marina basin, an improved kayak launch, concession building for rentals near the canoe/kayak ramp, floating docks, and a new public entrance road. Enhanced pedestrian walkways, outdoor seating, native landscaping and shoreline stabilization are also part of the plan.
The new visitor center will be named for Marjory Stoneman Douglas, author and environmental advocate for the establishment of Everglades National Park. The building of the new visitor center was authorized by Congress in 1989 as part of the Everglades National Park Protection and Expansion Act of 1989. The construction of a new visitor center, an improved canoe-kayak launch, and improved existing parking areas were identified in the park’s 2015 Final General Management Plan.
The construction activities are anticipated to take a minimum of two years to complete. While closures at the Gulf Coast location are planned during construction, the park will strive to maintain some visitor access when it is safe to do so. The canoe/kayak launch is expected to remain open continuously until April 1, 2024, when it will close for construction.
Onsite concession services including boat tours and rentals will cease Sept. 30 and are expected to resume in the fall of 2024. Due to the complexity of this project, all construction and closure dates may vary due to unforeseen circumstances.
To review the Environmental Assessment and Finding of No Significance for this project, visit the NPS Planning, Environment & Public Comment (PEPC) site at parkplanning.nps.gov/gulfcoast.
Learn more about Everglades National Park online at nps.gov/ever or follow the park on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
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