Glades County looks to restore Harney Pond Overlook

MOORE HAVEN — County commissioners told Glades County staff to move ahead on the idea of replacing the boardwalk at Harney Pond Overlook Park, which was torn down some time ago after recent hurricane damage.

Lake Okeechobee News/Chris Felker
LAKEPORT — This is the only boardwalk-type structure left at the far eastern end of Harney Pond Overlook Park. A short way northeast of it lies a small island where the old one used to stand.

Local residents and Northern visitors both recently have been inquiring, County Manager Bob Jones told the board at their meeting Tuesday, Nov. 12, where they can take in a wide vista on Lake Okeechobee’s shores. At present, he said, the only places with an accessible elevated view of the big lake are in Port Mayaca and Okeechobee.

“A lot of people have been coming in to ask about rebuilding that overlook, and we want to see if there’s any interest in us absorbing the cost and doing that,” he said.

Public Works Director Archie Branch has looked at the possibilities, Mr. Jones said. “He came up with a good idea, of a bridge across that one little canal there, that little cut, and then go to the far end and build an escalated ramp up to the overlook.”

He said that’d let county crews more easily “get equipment over there to maintain that island” and that Mr. Branch consulted with a contractor, getting a price of $40,000 to $60,000 for a walkway about 30 feet off the ground. “There’s no plans, I just gave him an idea and he gave me a rough estimate. Do you want us to proceed that way and look at that?” Mr. Jones asked.

Commissioner John Ahern said the old boardwalk was well used. “We had a lot of tourists come through wanting to see the lake.”

Lake Okeechobee News/Chris Felker
Now the Glades County commissioners want to build another boardwalk with a small bridge across the cut and an elevated ramp — handicapped-accessible — to give tourists back the close-up yet wide-open vistas of Lake Okeechobee they used to be able to see here, the eastern edge of Harney Pond recreation area.

He mentioned, “Sam Griffin is going to be inducted into the Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame. I thought we could do something, maybe name it in his honor. He’s spent a lifetime on the lake and promoting the lake.” Mr. Ahern suggested the board consider that, and said he’s brought it up before the Tourism Development Council.

Commissioner Donna Storter Long pointed out that there are grants available for such projects. “They might be able to help with this, and I think we should just do it and get some good signage out there.”

Mr. Jones said that because of insurance claim payments Glades County recently received for Hurricane Irma damage, about $28,000 would be available in the proper funds for the project. “The best idea is a bridge across there and make it a walkway and then at the very end of that island putting in an escalated ramp that’s elevated.” He added that would be needed to comply with the Americans With Disabilities Act.

Mrs. Long said, “I think it’s a great idea. Before that thing fell down, it was getting pretty rickety. But it’s unique, very unique out there, and we should go ahead and find out what our options are.” She made a motion to that effect, seconded by Mr. Ahern, which passed 5-0.

Lake Okeechobee News/Chris Felker
A picnic shelter stands with a sweeping view on the northeastern edge of the large park.

County Manager Jones said, “We’ll be working more diligently and getting more ideas, because we’ll be dealing with the Army Corps (of Engineers) and Water Management (District of South Florida), and you know how that goes. We’ll have to work with them.”

But if Mr. Ahern’s idea comes to fruition, the park overlook would be named for Okeechobee guide Sam Griffin, who was one of 11 people chosen for induction in the National Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame.

Born in 1937, Mr. Griffin “was 15 years old when he carved his first lure,” using guava because he knew it would float, the Outdoor News reported after his selection last autumn. Except it didn’t. “When the lure hit the water it immediately sank and that was the beginning of his experimentation creating lures that caught big fish. His initial offerings were the Old Line Sides lure which is coveted today by collectors. His other early experiments yielded the Hobo,” reported Outdoor News.

Other creations of his were the Sammy Shad, Wobble Pop, Bass Baffler, the Lil’ Chris, Jerk’n Sam and the Nippin’ Sam.

He tested all of his lures on Lake Okeechobee, where he was a fishing guide for over half a century, the magazine reported. Mr. Griffin sold all rights to Griffin Lures to Luhr Jensen in 1989.

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