Temporary Airboat Concession Contracts
The NPS has determined that Coopertown Airboat Tours, Gator Park Airboat Tours and Everglades Safari Park are eligible for concession contracts under the provisions of the expansion Act. All three companies are located on small tracts of private land within the Park along Tamiami Trail (U.S. 41), and conduct airboat tours on NPS owned lands. The operators estimate they collectively take more than 300,000 passengers into the Park annually and that business has grown over the past five years.
With over 99 percent of the expansion lands now in federal ownership, commercial airboat tours are occurring on Park lands without the commercial service authorizations required by NPS law and regulations.
The purpose of the proposed action is to authorize Coopertown Airboat Tours, Gator Park Airboat Tours, and Everglades Safari Park to continue to conduct airboat tours within the East Everglades addition of Everglades National Park for a three-year period.
The contracts are needed to allow these companies to conduct airboat tours, consistent with NPS laws, regulations and policies, until completion and implementation of the Park’s General Management Plan (GMP) and Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), currently under development. The Record of Decision for the Final GMP/EIS will include a determination on whether or to what extent commercial airboat concessions will be authorized and implemented over the 15 to 20 year life of the GMP. The NPS intends to defer acquiring the operators' land and buildings until completion of the GMP. The issuance of temporary airboat concession contracts is not intended to pre-determine the outcome of decisions to be reached in the GMP process.
For additional information, please contact Brien Culhane, Chief of Planning and Compliance, at 305-242-7717 or firstname.lastname@example.org
The National Park Service (NPS) proposes to issue temporary concession contracts to three airboat tour companies operating within the East Everglades Expansion Area of Everglades National Park. In accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the NPS will prepare an Environmental Assessment (EA) to analyze the environmental effects of authorizing airboat tours in the Park over a three-year period. In 1989, Congress passed the Everglades National Park Protection and Expansion Act (P.L.101-229). The Act enlarged the Park to include 109,506 acres of the East Everglades, including a portion of Northeast Shark River Slough, a waterway that is critical for the hydrologic restoration and protection of Park resources. Once the Park acquired these private and state lands, airboat use in the East Everglades addition would be prohibited, except for private airboat owners and commercial operators who were using the area as of January 1, 1989. Section 103(d) of the Act authorized the NPS to enter into concession contracts with commercial airboat tour operators in the addition area.