Everglades Bird Watching And Hunting Possible For Disabled
CLEWISTON, FL. -- In an effort to honor our nation�s veterans while also making public conservation lands more accessible to all, the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) constructed a waterfowl hunting and bird watching platform in the Everglades in Hendry County for the disabled and residents alike.
The platform itself is a large wooden boardwalk that can accommodate two wheelchairs. For hunting, the structure can be set up with camouflage netting and other tools of the sport. Two additional, higher platforms accomodate visitors for wildlife viewing at other times.
The SFWMD and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission sponsored the first hunt on December 21, when several hunters lent their hunting permits to disabled veterans so they could enjoy the new platform located in Stormwater Treatment Area (STA) 5 in Hendry County. Bird watchers will also benefit from the increased access, says the SFWMD.
Everglades Stormwater Treatment Areas, which are planted with native vegetation, use �green technology� to reduce phosphorus levels in stormwater runoff. To date, the District has converted more than 52,000 acres of land south of Lake Okeechobee to STAs. An additional 12,000 acres are now being designed as part of the District�s ongoing effort to improve Everglades water quality.
In addition to their role in improving Everglades water quality, the massive treatment wetlands have become a haven for South Florida wildlife, particularly wading birds and migratory waterfowl. Many of the STAs have been opened to the public for recreation such as hiking, biking and bird watching.
The District has long sponsored a hunting recreation program, and all of the District�s STAs are compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The SFWMD took several steps to improve recreational opportunities throughout South Florida in 2008 including:
In October, outdoor enthusiasts gained another spot to enjoy a host of recreational activities with the opening of the 3,700-acre Chandler Slough in Okeechobee, an addition to the Kissimmee River Public Use Area.
In July 2008, the SFWMD outfitted Stormwater Treatment Area (STA) 1 West, located in central Palm Beach County, with a new parking area leading to a 200-foot viewing platform and gazebos overlooking the watery expanse. The three-mile trail along a section of the levee surrounding the 6,670-acre STA offers hikers, bicyclists, photographers and bird watchers vast views of nature and wildlife such as great blue herons and mottled ducks.
Also in July 2008, hikers, campers and horseback riders were given access to apply online for recreational use licenses for activities on more than a dozen sites managed by the District. The online application is at www.sfwmd.gov/sul .
SFWMD Governing Board Member Michael Collins and SFWMD Everglades Recreation Program Manager Jerry Krenz talked about the project and the improved public access. Audio Interview