Swamp buggies allowed in Everglades again

Jul 11, 2011

The following article was published in the South Florida Sun Sentinel on July 11, 2011:

Swamp buggies allowed in the Everglades again

By Joe Cavaretta

The homemade contraptions known as swamp buggies that look like they’re out of the “Mad Max” movies are back after a long dry spell.

State officials dropped special regulations for wildlife management areas in the northern Everglades and the Holey Land, Rotenberger and Francis S. Taylor areas. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission rescinded an executive order issued in the spring that had sidelined the swamp buggies.

“Last time we came out was in January,” said Ubaldo Gonzalez of Miami, who was taking his son Gabriel, 7, to check out the hunting stands they plan to use this upcoming season. “It was too dry and they didn’t want any buggies out here starting fires, so they closed it down.” 

Weeks of rain have solved that problem. With the order lifted as of this past weekend, motorized vehicles including airboats and motorcycles are allowed into the previously closed areas.

Gabriel and his dad squished through ankle-deep mud in rubber boots as they helped buggy co-owner Jean Aubert, also of Miami, make final adjustments. Then they headed out from the north levee of the L-5 canal into the Holey Land wildlife management area, on the Palm Beach-Broward County line west of U.S. 27. 

The three climbed up into high seats, and the roaring Chevrolet V-8 engine sent mud, water and grass spraying as they bounced along.

A few miles up the levee road, Steve Hodgdon, of Hollywood, said he had not been out since spring. 

“The recent rains have allowed them to let us back out here. We’re going out three weeks prior to archery season, which opens up on Aug. 6. We’re clearing out shooting lanes around our stands.” he said.

 “The growth rate is so phenomenal and so rapid, if you don’t mow it like your grass, it grows up so high, the deer walk right by you and you can’t seem them.” Hodgdon said. 

Despite the new rules, there appeared to be no mad rush to get back to the back country. Only a handful of vehicles huddled on the levee by the Holey Land area. 

“I was surprised to not see many buggies out here today,” Gonzalez said.