Flamingo in Everglades getting a makeover

This is the Flamingo Visitor Center in better days.
This is the Flamingo Visitor Center in better days. Everglades National Park

Everglades National Park and the South Florida National Parks Trust have won a $250,000 grant to restore the park’s iconic Flamingo Visitor Center after a six-week national voting campaign, the trust said Wednesday.

The Partners in Preservation grant awarded by American Express and the National Trust for Historic Preservation will help spur park efforts to revitalize the entire Flamingo district inside Everglades National Park. The visitor center was wrecked by hurricanes a decade ago.

The Flamingo Visitor Center was voted one of the top projects nationwide by the public during a Vote Your Park campaign organized by the National Trust, American Express and National Geographic to showcase preservation projects in national parks.

More than 1 million votes were cast online during the campaign. Everglades received 64,155 votes, the seventh-highest total among the 20 participating national parks.

The grant corresponds with the 50th anniversary of the National Historic Preservation Act. Also, August marks the centennial of the national park system.

The park will use the $250,000 grant to repair the exterior of the visitor center and surrounding landscape, and “improve the visitor experience in Flamingo while working toward the goal of opening a new visitor center inside the building.”

With its distinctive breezeway and bright pink exterior, the Flamingo Visitor Center has served as a gateway to the Everglades and Florida Bay since the 1960s. The waterfront building was damaged in 2005 by back-to-back hurricanes and needs repair.

Everglades National Park was one of 20 national parks competing for $2 million in grant funding from the National Trust and American Express. Grants were awarded to the nine parks that received the most public during the Vote Your Park campaign.

Flamingo is the gateway to the 99-mile Wilderness Waterway and many shorter boating and paddling adventures in Everglades National Park. Flamingo is also a birder’s paradise, home to roseate spoonbills and a host of other birds, including the American flamingo. The waters around Flamingo provide refuge for the threatened American crocodile and manatees are frequently spotted in the Flamingo marina.

Flamingo is also a premiere fishing destination. Anglers pursue mangrove snapper, redfish, snook, tarpon and other game fish on Florida Bay and in the backcountry.