The Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge is officially open to the public – thanks to 2 new hiking trails. Created in 1989 under the Endangered Species Act – the nearly 27,000-acre refuge is located in the heart of the Big Cypress Basin. Until now, it’s been closed to the public – but the 2 new trails allow general access—free of charge. Wildlife Biologist - Larry Richardson – says the trails represent a balance between education and conservation.
“You know this trail development was really a balance between interrupting panthers and taking their habitat – and the need for us to be educated about this wilderness…and we think we’ve gotten that balance. This trail can’t be a trail unless we provide that educational outreach that’s so important down here.”
One trail is about a third of a mile long – and wheelchair accessible. The longer trail – at just over a mile – is more natural, but will likely be closed during parts of the year due to flooding. Both are lined with informational signs and kiosks – and share the same trailhead—with a gated parking lot that’s open from dawn ‘til dusk. It’s in Collier County—about a quarter-mile north of I-75 on State Road 29. The trails are part of the newly established Everglades Trail System, a creation of former U.S. Senator Bob Graham.
Tuesday, 07 June 2005 01:00