The South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) Governing Board on Thursday approved public access to one of its major Everglades restoration projects, the A-1 Flow Equalization Basin (FEB). After the meeting, the District said the action adds thousands of additional recreation acres in western Palm Beach County, where residents and visitors can enjoy the outdoors.
"This Board remains committed to protecting public access of taxpayer-owned District resources," said SFWMD Governing Board Chairman Dan O'Keefe. "This is a win-win. The A-1 FEB has been providing tremendous benefits to the Everglades ecosystem and now the public will be able to enjoy all the area has to offer with hiking, biking, hunting, wildlife viewing and other activities."
The 15,000-acre A-1 FEB, located west of U.S. 27 in western Palm Beach County, was completed in 2015 as part of Gov. Rick Scott's $880 million Restoration Strategies Plan to enhance water quality in the Everglades. The basin can hold up to 60,000 acre feet of water, directing that water to nearby stormwater treatment areas (STAs) at a controlled rate to improve the ability of those STAs to remove nutrients from the water. Since its completion, the A-1 FEB has contributed to dramatic improvements in Everglades water quality.
The Governing Board's action makes the area available for public waterfowl and alligator hunting, fishing, as well as hiking and biking on the levees around the property and wildlife viewing. These recreational activities will be managed by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC).
Several members of the public walked to the podium Thursday to thank the board, one calling the District "the friendliest toward public use of its lands of any of the state's water management districts.
"Florida is renowned for exciting outdoor recreation and a rich abundance of fish and wildlife resources," said FWC Executive Director Nick Wiley. "The FWC applauds SFWMD's efforts to make even more of these resources open and available for public enjoyment as they should be. We are happy to partner with SFWMD in this endeavor and look forward to helping manage the recreational opportunities on this beautiful piece of natural land for generations to come."
Approximately 86 percent -- 654,273 acres -- of all SFWMD-owned land is open to the public for recreational purposes. SFWMD actively manages these public areas so South Florida families are able to enjoy the lands that their tax dollars fund. At times, active construction or stages of restoration require portions of lands to be closed temporarily for public safety. Once construction is complete and projects operational, properties are opened for public recreational uses and activities consistent with the projects' purpose.
The Governing Board also recently expanded recreation in more than 3,400 acres of public lands. Allowed uses and maps are linked below: