MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Biscayne National Park may be closed due to the government shutdown, but law enforcement will allow the annual Columbus Day tie-up and party to go on in the waters of Biscayne National Park.
The park will remain closed as long as the government shutdown remains, but law enforcement doesn’t want to try to shut down the huge Columbus Day weekend party that attracts thousands of boaters each year.
“For any activities that occur related to Columbus Day weekend—the park is closed. We’ve got a whole host of partners here to help keep anybody that should come into the park as safe as possible; they may be cited for trespass. The park is closed,” said Supt. Brian Calstrom of Biscayne National Park.
But while law enforcement will look the other way when it comes to the gathering of the boats for the party, the Coast Guard said boaters who behave in an unsafe manner and those who drink and boat will be ticketed and possibly arrested.
Columbus Day boaters had worried the area near Elliott Key where most of them gather for the party would have been closed this year. Law enforcement had expected the boaters to turn to other areas like Mashta Point or Monument Island if the park was off limits.
Officials have tried to limit or stop the Columbus Day activities of boaters in the area, but the drunken revelry has continued for years.
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the Coast Guard said they would be ready for the partying no matter where it ended up.
“Our mission in the Biscayne National Park will be to keep boaters safe and secure and make sure everybody makes it back home. If they’re posing no danger to themselves or others we will not be telling them to leave,” said Lt. Mike Ortiz of the U.S. Coast Guard.