Everglades Exploration Network

I would like to introduce myself to the discussion group. My name is Mike Jester and I am the facility manager at Everglades National Park. It appears there is much misinformation about the camping structures and yes, I agree they are not as user friendly as those found in other areas of the park. What you may not know is the design of the structures was the result of having to obtain environmental permits/permission from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Corps of Engineers, U.S. Fish and Wildlife, U.S. Coast Guard and the National Marine Fisheries. Bottom line, we were required to raise the structures to a minimum of five feet about mean high water, provide one inch spacing between deck boards, orient the structure east to west and relocate the proposed Umbrella Key chickee futher away from the Tin Can Channel to Shark Point (much shallower water). Unfortunately, the park was unaware of these requirements when we were conducting public meetings to get input for future uses in the park. The agencies which oversee these activities have responsibility for the protection of critical habitats associated with threatened and endangered species and safe navigation for the boating public. In order obtain the permits to construct the campsites, the park had the choice of making the required changes or not constructing the camp sites, which I must assume would have fructrated our visitors more than having the existing facilities. So, where do we go from here?

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First..information for the backcountry user..the height of the platform above mean high water and whether or not there is a ladder.


That way when we obtain our permit we do not make a reservation for one we cannot hope to access on our trip. 

Thanks for the clarification & explanation Mike.

I think the biggest concern is the transition from water level to deck level. Would it be possible to install some features to make it easier to bring boats & or gear up from the water so as to minimize the ups & downs which is the most dangerous part of the usage of these facilities.

Also, would it be possible to do something to discourage the aerial fauna from roosting and or disgorging the contents of their digestive tracts on the chickees.

Is there a way for folks to provide you with suggestions or discussion points for future designs or would these boards be a good place for the discussion.

Thank you for your comments. We intend to install a lifting line(s) at each ladder so paddlers can tie off their gear and haul it up to the platform. Woulds it be helpful to have one line attached to a container, such as a plastic egg crate and another line to tie around larger gear? Regarding the avian's, we throught a handrail might discourage them from roosting on the platform deck or maybe confine them to roosting on the rail itself. We are not in favor of using traditional methods like momfilamnet line and bird spikes which could injure wildlife.


I would welcome comments suggestions via email at: Michael_Jester@nps.gov

would plastic owls or some such work on the birds?

Hi Kim:


The chickees have aluminum ladders and at low tide the height is near ten feet between the water ant the deck. You should check tides and weather before planning your trip to minimize your difficulty and possibly any surprises. 

I will check with our wildlife biologists.
It would help a lot if handles and/or a wood ladder extension were installed on the "back" side parallel to the (structure) porta-potties. The problem with the aluminum ladder location is that if you're in a longer sea kayak, you can not get the cockpit close enough to these ladders as the nose of the boat hits the wood structure underneath.. you can't get out! the back side has plenty of room .. even just a few hand-holds and steps would make it work!

I would not supply any containers. If we want to combine things together in a bag to life a laundry bag is ideal and we can bring that.


To supply plastic crates is invitation to thievery. If we expected it and it were not there we would be disappointed.  


One lifting line ought to be sufficient.


Thanks for your participation. Ergo we can work together and paddlers can do more than merely whine!

Got it! Thanks
Along the same lines, (no pun intended) any lines left in the lifting system would be subject to pilferage &/or deterioration. Maybe just pulleys so folks could use their own lines. I would suggest several so if any were broken, there's redundency and also folks could lift their whole boat. 



Thank you for chiming in. I am glad that you agree that these Chickees are not user friendly. I am also glad that you informed us of the how and the why they evolved into the beasts they have become.


To me this is clearly a case of the blind leading the blind and too many cooks in the kitchen. I'm curious did all the governing agencies (Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Corps of Engineers, U.S. Fish and Wildlife, U.S. Coast Guard and the National Marine Fisheries)meet in the same room to grant these approvals? I fail to see the logic behind the design.  


I assume that by changing the orientation, increasing the board spacing, and raising the chickee the idea was to let more light in to "save" the grass.. The way I see it, the higher you place a light blocking object the larger it's cast shadow will be. what could of effectively been a 200 sq/ft 90% shade kill-zone has now become a much larger albeit more diffused shadow area.  Low light is just as bad as no light for a full sun plant.


Furthermore what exactly was gained by moving the chickee to shallower water?  Every power boater having a #2 emergency is now going to rip right to the chickee and leave a wake of destruction in their path. somehow I get the feeling that the placement was the coast guards idea (shallow water placement = less of a navigation hazard).  Most navigational markers in this part of the world are a single 12-14" diameter pole about 10' above water level with a reflective sign. Where they worried someone would crash into the structure? Isn't that why practically every boat these days carries a GPS?


"In order obtain the permits to construct the campsites, the park had the choice of making the required changes or not constructing the camp sites, which I must assume would have frustrated our visitors more than having the existing facilities"

Doesn't the park also have the right to contest the decisions made by these agencies? What science and Logic did these agencies use to come up with these crazy specifications on the parks build? What if they had asked for the chickee to be 40' above the water?


Are these agencies going to back the park in litigation when they get sued for building an unsafe structure?? What happens when someone slips or trips and takes a head dive from 10' into 1.5' of water?  I am surprised that the structures don't also have to comply with florida building code which would require railings 42" in height and spaced as to not  let a 4" object go through the spacing? Was this agency left out of the party?


I had the opportunity of going camping at Canaveral National Seashore for new years weekend. I stayed at a back country site that was very similar to staying at cape sable.  Actually it was slightly better as my site was an entire island that i could explore freely. I was also able to take my pet and i found a fire ring and a picnic table waiting for me.  Guess what? We loved it and can't wait to go back.


Having a great park, but making it completely user unfriendly is only going to hurt your future business. Making the park a pleasurable experience will encourage return visits and revenue.


My suggestions for the chickee.


Take the ladder off, cut the roof off, remove the floor boards and leave the rest to the birds. You guys didn't build a campsite you build a roost and someone is going to get hurt.


I am fine with all the chickees except Johnson Key and Shark Point. If you affix pulleys to those two, it might encourage use by canoeists and kayakers, and those two chickees are not obviously suitable for such usage. Also, please remove the ladders.

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