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DEP Division of Recreation and Parks provides update on plans for Cayo Costa State Park

April 4, 2018
By ED FRANKS (efranks@breezenewspapers.com) , Pine Island Eagle

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Division of Recreation and Parks, held a public meeting Tuesday night, March 20, to present a management plan update for Cayo Costa State Park and hear suggestions and comments.

"The mission of the Florida Park Service is to provide resource-based recreation while preserving, interpreting and restoring natural and cultural resources," aid Daniel Alsentzer, planner for the office of park planning.

Recreation and Parks includes 164 state parks encompassing nearly 800,000 acres with 30 million annual visitors. Cayo Costa State Park was acquired in 1976 and consists of 2,567 acres.

"The DRP manages Cayo Costa State Park for the purpose of protecting its unique natural and cultural features and providing opportunities for natural resource-based recreation and historic interpretation for the benefit of the people of Florida," Alsentzer said.

The planning process for Florida state parks includes a comprehensive over-view of natural and cultural resources, archeological sites, visitor access facilities and much more. This inventory is followed by a staff park planning meeting to draft a written document of park goals and objectives. Following a division review, a meeting is scheduled with the public for public comment.

"Cayo Costa State Park provides opportunities for beach and water access, fishing, hiking, primitive camping and nature studies," Alsentzer said. "Some of the unique assets of Cayo Costa are: a barrier island coastline, tidal lagoons, fresh and brackish water ponds, beach dune ridges, shorebird habitat, sea turtle habitat and rare plants."

Alsentzer said that at this time there are no significant changes scheduled for the park.

Proposed improvements for Cayo Costa:

- Improve recreational and interpretive uses of the Pelican Bay Use Area on Cayo Costa by expanding the existing boat docks, relocating the maintenance shop, and developing a new visitor center;

- Enhance the recreational experience of the park's main Gulf Beach Use Area. New and improved visitor amenities will include a row of small picnic pavilions along the inland periphery of the beach and a new bathhouse;

- Renovate and replace the park's primitive cabins, develop a group camping area, replace existing restrooms, and enhance the landscape of native vegetation between sites;

- Parkwide, improve the existing tram road for ease of access by tram service vehicle, cyclists and pedestrians. Additional utility and support improvements will include a new shop location, volunteer tent sites and upgraded solar electric capacity.

Concerns from residents included how exotics are removed.

"A lot of times Brazilian pepper trees are quite large so our typical exotic treatment is to kill it in place and remove it when possible," Karen Rogers, District 4 biologist, said.

Fire is a major concern. Last year a "controlled burn" got out of control and nearly damaged a residence. The owner's concern is whether it's possible to bring in equipment and/or possible for Park Rangers to attend a firefighting training school.

Alsentzer said Park Rangers are trained to fight brush fires and there is a fire truck and fire equipment on the island for that purpose. Also, natural resource funding has been increased and should improve firefighting capabilities.

Birdy Smock congratulated the Park Service on keeping development to a minimum. Smock also suggested placing signs letting visitors know that dogs are not allowed. According to park rules, dogs are permitted in the cabin area but not permitted in swimming areas.

Questions were also raised about a small commercial dock rebuilt on the south end of the island. The dock was destroyed by Hurricane Charlie in 2004 and used by local boaters since. The dock was rebuilt in 2016 and used by Captiva Cruises to bring visitors to the south end of the island. For a time there was a locked gate on the dock to restrict the use for Captiva Cruises only but after local boaters objected the lock was removed.

The complete draft plan can be found at: floridadep.gov/parks/parks-office-park-planning/content/cayo-costa-state-park-public-meeting.

 
 

 

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