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Picayune Access: Proposed Southern Entrances

Adding designated entrances into Picayune from the south would improve accessibility and recreational opportunities.
Picayune Access: Proposed Southern Entrances
Unnamed lawyer, life-long deer hunter, and friend of Glades Hunter collecting his first duck of all time in Picayune during early teal season of 2020.

On November 8, 2021, Glades Hunter sent a Letter to relevant agency heads at Florida Forest Service ("FFS") and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission ("FWC") responsible for managing certain aspects of Picayune Strand State Forest (“Picayune”) regarding two separate access issues. This Letter has been circulated internally by local FWC contacts that have advised their agreement and intention to push for incorporation of the proposed rule changes in the coming year.

Part 1 of the Letter regarding proposed access from the south is set forth in relevant part below. Click here to read Part 2 of the Letter regarding driving on the Merritt Berm.

Dear Mr. Weston and Mr. Bingham, and other colleagues whom this may concern,

Picayune is a well-managed area, and the public is fortunate to enjoy meaningful opportunities for recreation in it. I am writing to you with a couple of suggestions, consistent with the Ten-Year Land Management Plan, dated June 15, 2020 (the “Management Plan”), and Florida law, that would enhance the experience even further.

Access from the South (FFS & FWC)

Understanding that legal access to Picayune is restricted to designated entrances per F.A.C. 5I-4.005(1)(a), adding designated entrances from the south would greatly improve accessibility and recreational opportunities for members of the public, especially those living in downtown Naples, Marco Island, Goodland, Everglades City, etc. The need to drive all the way around Picayune to gain meaningful access without breaking the law is often time-prohibitive.

Goal 2, Objective 2 of the Management Plan is to “develop additional public access and recreational opportunities.” (Management Plan, Pg. 6).  The reasoning behind this goal seems to be to encourage new visitors and enhancing the overall recreational experience of the public.

As such, acting on this request would help accomplish Picayune’s stated management goals. Such access would substantially reduce the commute time required to access Picayune for a large portion of the public, opening more opportunities for new and existing visitors to paddle, boat, site see, fish, scout, and hunt, etc. Further, access from the south would allow for a completely new and different kind of experience, as the ecology is different towards the south, with mangrove swamps and saltier water, etc.

It seems that an easy place to start providing access from the south would be to designate an access point on the Faka Union Canal in Port of the Everglades Park at the intersection of Tamiami Trail (“41”) and the Faka Union Canal. This is already a listed point of Designated Access on the Picayune Strand State Forest Recreation Opportunities Map on the FDACS website. However, this point of access does not provide any meaningful opportunities for recreation, as there is no designated access on FWC’s Picayune Strand Wildlife Management Area Regulations Summary and Area Map (“Brochure”), the vegetation is too thick to enter by foot, and there are buoys marking off the canal. Were these buoys removed and an arrow added to the Brochure signifying legal access, this point of access could be immediately usable by vessel, which seems to be a great start.

This suggested point of entry into Picayune from the south would be easily regulated by FWC, as FWC already patrols the area, ensuring compliance with Florida law and local rules in Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge (“10k”) and Big Cypress National Preserve, and, as such, would not seem to be an additional burden on FWC. There appear to be parking opportunities in Port of the Everglades Park itself, as well as in Port of the Islands, and on the side of 41, as is done for entry into 10k.

There may be additional opportunities to improve access from the south of Picayune by designating entrances off the side of 41, as is done in 10k. This would require FFS and FWC to look at the denseness of surrounding vegetation to determine where it may be possible for the public to enter among other factors. It seems that a couple of good first steps would be to add the Faka Union Canal entrance and then to gauge locations for potential additional entrances along 41.

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Thank you for your time in reading and considering this letter and for what you do in maintaining Picayune and other public lands.

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