Officials are gearing up to protect visitors, resources, and the very identity of Biscayne National Park during Columbus Day Weekend (October 5-8), traditionally the most dangerous weekend of theyear. The 57th Annual Columbus Day Regatta occurs outside of NPS boundaries; however, in recent years, thousands of revelers have gathered within the park near Elliott Key for informal gatherings that are increasingly rowdy. This makes it difficult for law enforcement to maintain a safe, low impact visitor experience. In the past 10 years, six individuals have been killed in boating accidents during Columbus Day Weekend parties. Seagrass beds within Biscayne have sustained serious damage from vessel groundings. Excessive litter has been observed in the area of the anchorage.
“A weekend boating in Biscayne National Park is a chance to experience spectacular, yet fragile, resources protected by the National Park System’s largest marine park,” said Biscayne National Park Superintendent Mark Lewis. “Boaters planning to enjoy Columbus Day Weekend in Biscayne National Park are urged to appoint a designated skipper, be alert for swimmers and for boaters operating under the influence, avoid operating at night, maintain control of trash, and obey laws and regulations.”
Brochures and frequently asked questions for a Columbus Day Weekend visit to Biscayne National Park are available at www.nps.gov/bisc.
What should be an enjoyable weekend out on the water is increasingly becoming a serious matter for law enforcement, with multiple agencies coordinating with the NPS to enforce laws, such as “rafting” of vessels, excessive noise violations, and illegal commercial activities. With zero tolerance enforcement in place and fines easily exceeding $5,000, it is important for the public to exercise good judgment during Columbus Day Weekend in Biscayne National Park.
Logo courtesy National Park Service