Feature Article - August 2011
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Dealing With Disaster

Disaster Plans Are Vital for Recreation, Sports & Fitness Facilities

By Deborah L. Vence

After the Storm

Following a disaster, there's not much else you can do except try to pick up the pieces.

For Flamingo Lodge in Everglades National Park in South Florida, several years have passed since two back-to-back hurricanes—Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Wilma—put the lodging facility, which opened in 1959, out of business.

Everglades National Park is considered the largest subtropical wilderness in the United States, and is a designated World Heritage Site, International Biosphere Reserve and Wetland of International Importance. The history of the Everglades is vast, and one that many in that area want to remember. Boaters, campers and tourists have frequented the national park over the years, bringing in local business and creating fond memories with their families and friends.

Following a disaster,
there's not much else
you can do except try to
pick up the pieces.

"[Flamingo Lodge] had been there for 50 years, as a vital component of the South Florida community, and all the visitors who came, they used Flamingo as a base camp … to learn about the Everglades, to have the quintessential family vacation," Adornato said. "It's been six years since the hurricanes, and it hasn't been rebuilt. One of the concerns is funding. Everybody talks about it that if we just had more money. But, you have to prioritize funding."

The NPCA produced a report that showed that for every federal dollar invested in national parks there is a $4 return to the local economy.

"The NPCA has been one of the leading organizations in urging the park service to re-create this unique place. The park service has to have a plan. So, now they have a final plan. And, we've been pushing them year after year to keep them on track," he said. "The bottom line is that we're at a junction based on funding.

"There is an economic benefit, an intended benefit of having Americans and our visitors understand the unique resources of America. There is no other Everglades in the world," Adornato said. "They are here in South Florida. There is an inherent benefit to that. We said in the past that our national parks are our nation's largest university."

Adornato also noted that the Gulf oil spill's devastation came not long after restaurants in the area were coming back and shops were opening again. The NPCA visited the Gulf Coast after the oil spill, and found that the effects on wildlife have been devastating. Sea turtles were washed up dead on Gulf beaches, as well as thousands of birds and some mammals.

"It took four or five years from those devastating hurricanes to reconnect people with traditional summer vacations, natural experiences and beaches," he added. "And, then we have this oil explosion."