A 501(c) (3) not-for-profit organization

Everglades wins Historic Preservation Grant to restore iconic Flamingo Visitor Center

July 6, 2016 – Everglades National Park and the South Florida National Parks Trust have won a $250,000 historic preservation grant to restore the park’s iconic Flamingo Visitor Center after a six-week national voting campaign.

The Partners in Preservation grant awarded by American Express and the National Trust for Historic Preservation will help to spur park efforts to revitalize the entire Flamingo district inside Everglades National Park.

The Flamingo Visitor Center was voted one of the top projects nationwide by the public during a “Vote Your Park” campaign organized by the National Trust, American Express and National Geographic to showcase preservation projects in national parks.

More than one million votes were cast online during the campaign. Everglades received 64,155 votes, the 7th highest total among the 20 participating national parks.

“We are grateful to everyone who supported Everglades National Park through this exciting campaign. The results are especially rewarding as this support corresponds with the 50th anniversary of the National Historic Preservation Act,” said Superintendent Pedro Ramos of Everglades National Park.

The park will use the $250,000 grant to repair the exterior of the visitor center, restore the surrounding landscape and improve the visitor experience in Flamingo while working toward the goal of opening a new visitor center inside the building.

With its distinctive breezeway and bright pink exterior, the Flamingo Visitor Center has served as a gateway to the Everglades and Florida Bay since the 1960s. The waterfront building was damaged in 2005 by back-to-back hurricanes and is now in need of repair.

Everglades National Park was one of 20 national parks competing for $2 million in grant funding from the National Trust and American Express. Grants were awarded to the nine parks that received the most public votes during the Vote Your Park campaign. The grants celebrate the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service in 2016.

Thank you to everyone who voted in support of Everglades National Park during the campaign to help restore Flamingo!

Watch this video for more details on the Partners in Preservation grant campaign, or read our news release below:

The Everglades Needs You: Vote Everglades to Restore Flamingo

May 25, 2016 – Everglades National Park and the South Florida National Parks Trust (SFNPT) have launched a campaign to restore the park’s Flamingo Visitor Center with support from American Express, the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the public.

With its distinctive breezeway and bright pink exterior, the Flamingo Visitor Center has served as a gateway to the Everglades and Florida Bay since the 1960s. The waterfront building was damaged in 2005 by back-to-back hurricanes and is now in need of repair.

Everglades National Park is one of 20 national parks competing for $2 million in grant funding from the National Trust. The grants will be awarded to the national parks that win the most public votes during an online voting campaign from May 25 to July 5.

To secure the funding needed to restore the Flamingo Visitor Center, Everglades National Park and the SFNPT are encouraging everyone to go to www.voteyourpark.org and vote for the Everglades. The public can vote once a day for their favorite park until July 5.

“Everglades National Park needs everyone to get behind this project, to help restore the Flamingo Visitor Center and create support for a larger rebuilding effort in Flamingo,” said Pedro Ramos, superintendent of Everglades and Dry Tortugas National Parks.

The Flamingo Visitor Center was built by the National Park Service in the early 1960s as part of a “Mission 66” program to modernize national parks for a new generation of park visitors. Mission 66 transformed the national park system by adding new visitor centers, administrative buildings, campgrounds, roads and trails to parks across the country.

Mission 66 also ushered in a new style of park architecture, a style known as Park Service Modern. The Flamingo Visitor Center combines Park Service Modern architecture with tropical touches that shout Miami and make the building distinct – pink paint, a keystone veneer, jalousie windows and a covered breezeway.

A $250,000 grant from the National Trust’s Partners in Preservation program would repair the exterior of the building, restore the historic landscape and improve the visitor experience while supporting the goal of opening a new visitor center inside the building.

The park recently completed a design study for interior renovations that would transform the building’s former restaurant into a new visitor center and bookstore with exhibits on the Everglades and sweeping views of Florida Bay.

The study is part of a larger plan to revive the entire Flamingo district inside the park by adding overnight lodging (24 elevated cottages and 20 eco-tents) a restaurant for casual family dining, and new visitor services. The park is seeking a business partner to provide commercial services in Flamingo for the next 20 years. Proposals are due July 13.

The Partners in Preservation program, launched in celebration of the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service in 2016, gives everyone an opportunity to support the park’s rebuilding efforts by casting a vote for the Everglades at www.voteyourpark.org and sharing on social media with hashtag #VoteEverglades.

Restoring the Flamingo Visitor Center to its former glory through a Partners in Preservation grant will connect a new generation of visitors to this iconic spot and serve as a catalyst for the rejuvenation of the entire Flamingo Mission 66 district.

About Flamingo

Located at the center of the greatest wilderness east of the Rockies, Flamingo is the gateway to the 99-mile Wilderness Waterway and many shorter boating and paddling adventures in Everglades National Park. The area surrounding Flamingo is a birder’s paradise, home to the Roseate Spoonbill and a host of other birds, including the occasional American Flamingo (a pair was spotted in November 2015 just east of Flamingo). The waters around Flamingo provide refuge for the threatened American Crocodile, and manatees are frequently spotted in the Flamingo marina. Flamingo is also one of the world’s premiere fishing destinations. Anglers pursue mangrove snapper, redfish, snook, tarpon, and other game fish on Florida Bay and in the backcountry.

Mission 66 Architecture in Everglades National Park

The back-to-back hurricanes that struck South Florida in 2005 dealt a devastating blow to one of the region’s most interesting but overlooked destinations – the Flamingo Mission 66 District inside Everglades National Park where the main park road meets Florida Bay.

Developed in the 1950s by the National Park Service, the Flamingo Mission 66 District represents an early example of the modern design and construction methods embraced by the Park Service in the years following World War II.

The Flamingo Lodge and visitor center, the marina store and service station, employee housing and campgrounds were all constructed as part of an ambitious, 10-year capital improvement plan that introduced modern design to national parks across the country.

The National Park Service launched the Mission 66 program in 1956 with the goal of expanding and modernizing America’s national parks for a new generation of visitors – more of whom were arriving in automobiles than ever before.

Visitation at national parks surged after World War II. In response, the National Park Service convinced Congress to invest heavily in new infrastructure to accommodate more visitors and their automobiles. The program was dubbed Mission 66 in honor of its completion date – 1966 – the 50th anniversary of the National Park Service.

Flamingo today has the largest collection of Mission 66 buildings in the park, but other examples survive, most notably in Shark Valley where the iconic observation tower with its spiral ramp rises like a spaceship from the flat landscape.

With the launch of Mission 66, the NPS embraced new construction methods and materials and a style of architecture (known as Park Service Modern) that emphasized modern design, comfort and efficiency. The move represented a dramatic break with the “rustic” style of architecture that dominated park service construction in earlier decades.

The Mission 66 program also introduced the concept of the “visitor center” to national parks. Approximately 100 visitor centers were built in national parks as part of the program, including the one in Flamingo.

Everglades National Park was selected as one of the pilot projects for Mission 66, and plans for Flamingo were prepared by the National Park Service in collaboration with local architect Harry L. Keck of Coral Gables.

Construction of the Flamingo Visitor Center began in 1957. The two-story concrete block structure flanks Florida Bay with a ramped entrance and a breezeway that connects its two wings. The visitor center was damaged in 2005 by Hurricanes Katrina and Wilma but remains open today with a fresh coat of paint in the original “Flamingo Pink” color.

The Flamingo Lodge motel and cottages – a popular spot among fisherman and birders and the only overnight accommodation in the park – did not survive the storms.

The National Park Service has completed a master plan for rebuilding Flamingo, but money is scarce and progress has been slow.

The future of Flamingo is uncertain, but the push to rebuild has helped to focus attention on the legacy of Mission 66 in Everglades National Park.

Other Mission 66 buildings in Flamingo include the shuttered service station that greets visitors upon arrival, staff housing and the boat shelter at the park’s maintenance yard.