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Old 04-22-2009, 05:52 AM   #1
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Location: Florida, USA
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FL considering closing 58 state parks mid week

Please write/call/email/fax your state representative to stop this. Services will go downhill fast if this happens.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

DEP offers mid-week closures of 58 state parks

Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park

By Bruce Ritchie
Visitors to 58 Florida state parks could see closed gates three days a week under a budget-cutting proposal requested by Senate leaders.

Facing possibly a $6.5 billion deficit in fiscal 2009-10, the Senate asked some state agencies to offer ways to cut their operating budgets 20 percent. That would help shield health care and education from deeper cuts, said Sen. Carey Baker, chairman of the Senate Committee on General Government Appropriations.

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection proposed $88 million in budget cuts, including $2.2 million saved by closing from Tuesday to Thursday those parks that lack campgrounds and cabins. A list of the parks is provided below.

"I could truly see a family taking the day off to go to enjoy a state park in the middle of the week and finding it closed," DEP Secretary Michael Sole said. "That would be truly disappointing."

He said the department would work to inform the public if the reductions are approved in the 2009-10 state budget.

As part of a budget exercise last fall, DEP had proposed closing 19 state parks but faced an outcry from local communities. In his proposed budget for next year, Gov. Charlie Crist proposed an increase in entrance fees of $1 per vehicle to raise $7.2 million.

Sole and other agency representatives outlined their proposed cuts Thursday during a meeting of the Senate Committee on General Government Appropriations.

"Such a somber meeting we're having today," said the usually-witty Baker, a Republican from Eustis.

There was no reaction to the proposed park closures from committee members. But Sen. Charlie Dean, R-Inverness, said the fee increase would be significant for families. Park entrance fees now range from $3 to $5.

"It is affordable, but it's not a cheap adventure," he said.

Other possible cuts also would significantly affect DEP operations, Sole said. They include eliminating all of the seasonal positions at Florida parks, effectively reducing by half the 1,063 state park employees. Another 20 permanent park positions would be cut for a combined savings of $3.7 million.

DEP, with 3,574 employees, overall would lose 213 jobs or 6 percent of its workforce to meet the 20-percent reduction, Sole said.

The department also proposes eliminating its Florida Springs Initiative to save $2.4 million, cutting nearly $10 million from two underground petroleum storage tanks cleanup programs and cutting $1.6 million from its environmental crimes investigations. And $600,000 to administer beach sand replacement projects would be cut, significantly slowing the pace of beach restoration.

Sole said Florida could lose the 50 percent federal match in beach restoration dollars if the state doesn't contribute to those projects.

Sen. Al Lawson, D-Tallahassee, said the beach program provides a boost to the state's tourism economy. And Sole said every dollar spent on beaches produces about $8 for the economy, as well as reducing property damage from storm waves.

But Baker, the committee chairman, said those projects had received $30 million a year from the documentary tax stamp on real estate transactions. But that revenue is estimated at $800,000 next year amid the economic slowdown.

"We built a funding source on shifting sands," Baker said. "And those sands washed away -- completely went out to sea."

Photo courtesy of the state Division of Parks and Recreation. Text copyright by Bruce Ritchie and FloridaEnvironments.com

Here is the list of parks being considered for closing and reduced hours of operation

Alfred B. Maclay Gardens State Park LEON
Allen David Broussard Catfish Creek Preserve State Park POLK
Atlantic Ridge State Park MARTIN
Avalon State Park ST LUCIE
Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park MIAMI-DADE
Camp Helen State Park BAY
Cedar Key Museum State Park LEVY
Charlotte Harbor Preserve State Park CHARLOTTE
Colt Creek State Park POLK
Constitution Convention Museum State Park GULF
Crystal River Archaeological State Park CITRUS
Crystal River Preserve State Park CITRUS/LEVY
Dade Battlefield Historic State Park SUMTER
Dagny Johnson Key Largo Hammock Botanical State Park MONROE
De Leon Springs State Park VOLUSIA
Deer Lake State Park WALTON
Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park COLLIER
Devil's Millhopper Geological State Park ALACHUA
Dudley Farm Historic State Park ALACHUA
Dunns Creek State Park PUTNAM
Estero Bay Preserve State Park LEE
Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park COLLIER
Florida Nature and Heritage Tourism Center HAMILTON
Fort Cooper State Park CITRUS
Fort Pierce Inlet State Park ST LUCIE
Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park MONROE
Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park CITRUS
Honeymoon Island State Park PINELLAS
Hugh Taylor Birch State Park BROWARD
Ichetucknee Springs State Park COLUMBIA/SUWANNEE
John D. MacArthur Beach State Park PALM BEACH
John Gorrie Museum State Park FRANKLIN
Judah P. Benjamin Confederate Memorial at
Gamble Plantation Historic State Park MANATEE
Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park OKEECHOBEE/OSCEOLA
Lake Jackson Mounds Archaeological State Park LEON
Lake June-In-Winter Scrub State Park HIGHLANDS
Letchworth-Love Mounds Archaeological State Park JEFFERSON
Lignumvitae Key Botanical State Park MONROE
Lovers Key State Park LEE
Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings Historic State Park ALACHUA
Paynes Creek Historic State Park HARDEE
Ponce de Leon Springs State Park HOLMES/WALTON
Pumpkin Hill Creek Preserve State Park DUVAL
Ravine Gardens State Park PUTNAM
Rock Springs Run State Reserve ORANGE/LAKE/SEMINOLE
San Marcos de Apalache Historic State Park WAKULLA
Savannas Preserve State Park MARTIN/ST LUCIE
St. Lucie Inlet Preserve State Park MARTIN
St. Marks River State Park JEFFERSON/LEON
St. Sebastian River Preserve State Park BREVARD/INDIAN RIVER
Tarkiln Bayou Preserve State Park ESCAMBIA
Terra Ceia Preserve State Park MANATEE
Wacasassa Bay Preserve State Park LEVY
Washington Oaks Gardens State Park FLAGLER
Werner-Boyce Salt Springs State Park PASCO
Windley Key Fossil Reef Geological State Park MONROE
Yellow River Marsh Preserve State Park SANTA ROSA

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Old 04-22-2009, 06:00 AM   #2
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Seems like a good way to save money. Not closing anything that has a campground. How else could they reduce the budget? A statewide across the board 20% cut affects everyone including the parks. Looks like a good idea to me.
Lot's of states and the feds are doing some of the same things.

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Old 04-22-2009, 06:33 PM   #3
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It is regretable that it comes to this but all Florida's revenue sources are being tapped to their limit with the exception of an income tax. If voters were given the choice between closing parks and starting a state income tax you can only guess who long it would take to close the parks all together. Just my opinion but we are facing very difficult choices of doing less and doing nothing on a wide range of government services.
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Old 04-22-2009, 07:44 PM   #4
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Today, Florida passed a bill that would allow oil and natural gas drilling on leases from 3 to 10.3 miles offshore. This will employ about 16,000 people at an average salary of $76,000/year and will provide billions of dollars of revenue. It could supply up to 20% of the total state budget like LA. This strip of land is not covered by the recent congressional ban on offshore drilling. The state also gets 100% of the royalty and outside of the 10.3 mile limit the state get zero. The oil companies are lining up to pay for the privilege. They use the modern slanted drilling methods and after a 100 to 160 day drilling period done by ship, everything is underwater and unseen except for a drilling platform handling dozens of wells. There is little visual evidence of oil production and this not only helps the state, but will also cut down on the $700 billion we send oversea each year to people who don’t like us. If this doesn’t get tied up for decades by the environmentalist, funding state parks will not be a problem whatever happens to the national economy. I wish the national government would not have made the drilling take place so close to shore, but they did.
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Old 04-22-2009, 11:39 PM   #5
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Raise the fees from $3-5 to $8-10. The people that use parks are the same people that pay $8-15 to go out to a move then buy a $4 coke and a $5 bag of popcorn. Add a couple bucks per night to the campground fees. Let's keep the parks open and the people working with minimal cost to any individual using the parks and campgrounds. If we have to lay off personnel we could save some real money by cutting the legislative staffs in half.
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Old 06-01-2009, 09:21 AM   #6
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The state increased fees in the state parks about 25 years ago from pressure from the campground associations; the fees were up to the privet campgrouds level; in the $20 to $30 level; guess what happened? everyone stayed away; stayed that way for a couple of years; the state parks lowered their rates back down, it took years for them to recover from the lose, increasing fees is not the answer, increasing fees will lower the attendance, if thats what they want; thats what they will get. history has a way of repeating itself.
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Old 06-01-2009, 05:54 PM   #7
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History does have a way of repeating itself. And it more than likely would in this case again.
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Old 06-04-2009, 11:51 AM   #8
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We were camping in a forest service campground in Georgia a few years ago and they had a large fee increase; I asked the ranger why the increase?
his answer; are you ready for this? They didn't need the money; He said if they increase it enough it keeps the poor trash out. Now isn't that just great. all us not so rich folks that use the forest campgrounds and state parks; are just trash.
Maybe Florida wants to keep the poor trash out of their parks.
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Old 06-04-2009, 12:03 PM   #9
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FL & CA have the exact same problem- economy was good & state budget (i.e. hiring new state employees) went thru the roof. Now the economy is in the tank & & the solution is to close facilities (not reduce state payroll). Hmmm...
Private sector works a wee bit differently.
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Old 06-04-2009, 01:14 PM   #10
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seems like government is always top heavy; solution; when theres a money problem; start at the bottom;
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Old 06-04-2009, 01:23 PM   #11
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My DW and I just stayed in a county park at Sebastian Inlet near Melbourne Florida for two weeks. Sunday night through Thursday night, we were in a over 100 space park with two other happy campers. Closing it mid-week would save money and hurt few.

I say, ya-do-what-ya-have-ta-do!
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Old 06-04-2009, 05:49 PM   #12
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[quote=Jim Stewart;509696]My DW and I just stayed in a county park at Sebastian Inlet near Melbourne Florida for two weeks. Sunday night through Thursday night, we were in a over 100 space park with two other happy campers. Closing it mid-week would save money and hurt few.

You wouldn't of had a spot if the campground was closed; then where would you have went; to another state park that was closed mid week?
I've stayed at that park; mostly ran with volinteers; close it during the week would save almost nothing. most state campgrounds are ran pretty much the same, the rangers get paid whether the park is open or closed; no saveing there.

weekenders wouldn't care; what about the retires that can't find a spot on the weekends? most parks fillup on the weekends.

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Old 06-04-2009, 06:09 PM   #13
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I would have to had gone to a private campground. The park has a staff of about 5 people during the day and night. If they were to reduce the days of the week, they could do with less staff and save money.

When I pick up the paper everyday, I see every special interest in the world declaring that they can not live with any cuts; Schools, Parks, Libraries, Police, Fire, City Services, Medicare, Medicaid, Children's Programs you name it, they all have the same story. Well the story is getting old, the money is gone and there is no gold at the end of the rainbow.

It has to start somewhere and it should start everywhere, if that includes campgrounds then so be it. It's time that all special interest groups came to the table and just not to eat from the trough of everyone else, but to come to grips with the reality of our new economy. The bubble has burst!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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Old 06-04-2009, 06:14 PM   #14
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By the way, as a special interest, that is a County Park. It is impossible for a county resident to get a space during the Winter. The park is filled with Snowbirds. Yes, the Snowbirds do help support the park for the rest of the year, but I have been told that total days used between resident and non-resident are 20/80. The park runs at an annual loss and is supported by local tax dollars so that Snowbirds have a place for the Winter.

Sounds like a deal for the locals!

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