February 6, 2019

SOUTH FLORIDA — An end to the partial shutdown of the federal government saw the start of higher entrance fees for Everglades National Park.

The revised admission cost for motorists and boaters went into effect Jan. 30. The fees originally were scheduled to start Jan. 10 but were delayed by the shutdown.

“The new entrance fee will increase from $25 to $30 per vehicle for seven days. Individual entrance fees will increase from $8 to $15 and the park’s annual pass will cost $55,” park officials said in a Jan. 29 statement.

The $30 week-long fee or $55 annual fee for recreational boats and cars covers everyone in the vehicle.

Holders of Commercial Use Authorization permits, required by fishing guides and others who use the national park for income, are expected to require their paying passengers to have an individual pass.

“We expect to take some time to fully educate our park visitors on these new changes,” park Superintendent Pedro Ramos said in a Dec. 7 statement.

“Visitors entering through the park’s maritime boundary by boat, paddlecraft or guided tour will be required to have an appropriate entrance pass,” the park says.

“The fee changes at Everglades National Park are part of a broad National Park Service initiative to standardize fee rates across the country,” the park website says. “As part of ongoing efforts to address aging park infrastructure and improve the visitor experience, entrance fee changes will be phased in over the next two years.”

Florida Keys fishing guides have pushed back on requiring clients to purchase an individual park-entrance fee for a day or two of fishing in the 1,100 square miles of Florida Bay that lie within the park jurisdiction.

An Upper Keys eco-tour operator said requiring adult passengers to each pay $15 would raise his overall prices by 25 percent and possibly put him out of business.

To purchase an individual pass in the Keys, charter customers going into the park would have to buy online, or purchase one from a captain who has been approved to sell passes as a third-party vendor.

“To date, 25 CUA operators have requested passes to sell to their clients. We expect to continue to get more requests now that we’re open again,” Allyson Gantt, acting public affairs chief for the Everglades and Dry Tortugas National Parks, said in an email.

At some areas like Dusenbury Creek off Key Largo, the Intracoastal Waterway that serves as the park’s southern boundary lies less than a mile from shore.

Seniors and other people who hold lifetime passes are not affected by the rate increase.

A mandatory online boating class for Everglades navigators is expected to be released later this year. There is no charge for the course.

For more information, visit nps.gov/ever/planyourvisit/fee-change-faqs.htm.

kwadlow@keysnews.com