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Should aqua park visitors be concerned about alligators?

Posted at 5:27 PM, Jul 24, 2018
and last updated 2018-07-25 04:25:55-04

The new aqua park at Okeeheelee Park is just around the corner from a pavilion where visitors can reserve the area for picnics.

Okeeheelee is a popular spot this summer.

Teenager Emma Silverthorn loves it there: "It was amazing."

As adults and kids enjoy the outdoors on the water, some people expressed concerns on social media about alligators.

Shark Wake Park co-owner Greg Norman Jr. says even the lifeguards keep a watchful eye: "All of these locations have freshwater bodies that do in fact have alligators in them. But not one instance, not one time has any water skier, wakeboarder ever had a bad issue with an alligator."

RELATED: A closer look at Shark Wake Park

Trish Burt has judged water events for years at Okeeheelee Park: "In my 20 years of being here, I've seen a gator two times and they were both trying to get out of sight, so they don't want to be around."

Roger Roque, owner of Kayak King said: "We've seen one small gator in the 12 years that we have been here and it was the first year that we opened up the shop. And since then we have not witnessed or viewed any evidence of gators in this lake."

Palm Beach County Parks and Recreation issued this statement:

We make every effort to ensure our park visitors are aware that alligators may be present and signs are posted along our lake shorelines throughout our Parks system to educate park users.  Most alligators are naturally afraid of humans and typically stay clear of active water recreation sites such as busy swim areas and ski courses.  Alligators, as native species, are an important part of our wetland ecosystem. They have shared the lakes, rivers, and marshes with us for thousands of years.  While the potential for conflict between humans and alligators can exist, unprovoked incidents are very rare.  Alligators spend long periods of time in the water but also come out on land to bask in the sun for warmth or to crawl to another wetland area. In most every case, if left alone, alligators will move on to areas away from people. For these reasons, people and alligators have been able to coexist in South Florida for centuries.  In addition, people should never feed alligators.  This causes the animal to lose its natural fear of humans and result in its removal and destruction.  We also suggest that if you fish, do not throw fish scraps into the water as you could be unintentionally feeding an alligator.  Through vigorous inspections and lifeguard oversight, we know that the operator of the Aqua Park has gone above and beyond to ensure the area is safe for all recreational users.  Incidents with alligators are extremely rare and while we can’t say you’ll never have an experience with one, experts tell us you’re more likely to be struck by lightning than attacked by an alligator in Florida.

Greg Norman Jr. added: "The park rangers are going right along these water edges the entire day. There are literally thousands of people out here looking at this water. If there was any nuisance wildlife, we would know about it immediately."