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Class to boat in park’s Florida Bay set for January

Boaters who fish or explore Florida Bay waters inside Everglades National Park will be required to take a mandatory online boating class, effective in January 2018, according to a current schedule.
Boaters who fish or explore Florida Bay waters inside Everglades National Park will be required to take a mandatory online boating class, effective in January 2018, according to a current schedule. Keynoter

The mandatory requirement for a boating course for vessel operators in Florida Bay waters inside Everglades National Park begins in January, say park managers.

As proposed, the online class will be tied to the ability to purchase a seven-day or annual boating pass for the approximate 1,100 square miles of the bay within Everglades boundaries.

Cost for the annual boating fee likely will drop from the current $75 to $50 in January. The education portion of navigating Florida Bay will be free until July 2018 under current plans, but then will require an added fee for renewal. Launch fees for using a park ramp at Flamingo will be dropped.

Overall, the revised costs for a South Florida boater who now pays for use of the park’s Flamingo launch along with an annual pass should not be largely different, park Assistant Superintendent Justin Unger said Monday.

A seven-day Everglades boat pass will remain at $25.

When park managers come to Key Largo’s Murray E. Nelson Government and Cultural Center for a 6 p.m. Tuesday meeting to get comment on fees, Florida Keys backcountry guides may want to talk about a proposal to hike the current $250 Commercial Use Authorization annual permit to $1,000.

Fishing clients on the guides’ boat also may have to purchase individual passes under current proposals, Florida Keys Fishing Guides Association Commodore Steve Friedman said this week.

“Everglades National Park is unique in the country and we believe it should be treated as such,” Friedman said. “You can drive into most national parks. Florida Bay is different. We believe the park proposal overlooks the importance of guides.”

When the boating-education plan goes into effect, it will be required for motorboat operators and canoes or kayaks. The course seeks to ensure that boaters understand the bay’s shallow-water ecosystem that can be damaged by careless vessel operation.

Kevin Wadlow: 305-440-3206

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