Everglades National Park is testing a new structure that is a cross between a tent and a cabin. Called an eco-tent, it’s a prototype of lodging that park planners would like to see at Flamingo, located at the end of the park road that starts at Homestead.
Everglades National Park offered motel rooms and cabins at Flamingo until the two hurricanes of 2005, Katrina and Wilma, damaged them beyond repair.
The new eco-tent had its first guests Dec. 14 and can be rented for up to three nights through April 14. Rates are $30 a night. To reserve, call 239-695-0124 between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. Many nights are already booked, according to park spokesman Mary Plumb.
I love the idea of the eco-tent because it allows you to immerse yourself in the Everglades environment, but without sleeping on the ground or having rain seep into a flimsy tent. Visitors will need to bring sleeping bags and food, but the eco-tent reduces the gear required.
I’ve stayed in a similar structure at the spectacular Bear Paw High Sierra Camp in Sequoia National Park. (At Bear Paw, the camp can only be reached by an 11.5 mile hike with 1,000 feet elevation gain.)
Flamingo needs lodging options for guests because it’s 40 miles into the park and visitors on a day trip barely have time to explore this remote location if they make other stops first.
“We’re asking everyone who rents the eco-tent to fill out a survey about it and gives us feedback,” says spokesman Mary Plumb. Visitors will be asked about design, function, amenities and how the tent might be improved.
The tent sits on a 14-foot square wooden platform, and is designed to take advantage of the breezes coming off of Florida Bay and efficiently move warm air out of the tent. It is currently furnished with bed frames, a table, and chairs.
The eco-tent was designed by architecture students at the University of Miami and the prototype cost $17,000. If many were ordered, the price would probably come down, but it’s not clear the eco-tent will ever go into production. The park will ask for proposals from potential concessionaires next year who may or may not include eco-tents in their proposals, Plumb says.
A long-term plan for Flamingo has been under development for several years. Here are the expected steps, according to Plumb:
- In January 2013, the National Park Service issued a request for proposal (RFP) to operate concessions with activities for Flamingo.
- A contract with a new concession company will start in December 2013.
- A new draft of a general management plan for Flamingo will be released in March 2013, with a 60-day public comment period.
- A decision on park development will come in 2014.
A big issue, of course, is that no funds have so far been allocated for this project.
Eco-tents, environmentally friendly cabins and motel rooms, hiking and biking trails with shuttle buses and a new visitor center and marina were all part of a 2010 draft of that plan.
More about Everglades National Park
- The eco-tent project (NPS website)
- Reserve a campsite at Flamingo
- Everglades National Park tips for visitors
- The Everglades National Park website
- Everglades National Park map
- The Anhinga Trail
- Shark Valley entrance, with its 15 mile trail and trams ride
- Robert is Here, the funky fruit stand near the Homestead entrance.
- Knauss Berry Farm, for strawberry milks shakes and Florida’s best cinnamon rolls, in Homestead.