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Editorial: ‘Bad Ideas Have a Way of Resurfacing’

July 15, 2011 by   - () Leave a Comment

Editor’s Note: The following editorial appeared in the TC Palm, a Florida publication.

First, it was the possibility of golf courses being constructed in a handful of state parks, including Jonathan Dickinson State Park in Martin County. The idea was floated, briefly, then shelved during the 2011 Legislature.

The latest incarnation of a bad “parks” idea — a proposal to privatize campground construction and operations at as many as 56 state parks — appears to have suffered a similar fate. At least for the moment.

Unfortunately, bad ideas have a way of resurfacing. Let’s hope the proposal by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection never again sees the light of day.

When the department announced its proposal, public reaction was swift and loud. State Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, sent a letter to Gov. Rick Scott, who supported the proposal, and Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Herschel Vinyard, asking them to halt the plan. Honeymoon Island State Park in Pinellas County was one of four parks initially considered under the proposal. When state officials hosted a public meeting in Dunedin to discuss the privatization plan, more than 500 people attended. Speaker after speaker denounced the idea, which included building a campground that would allow recreational vehicles.

The ill-fated plan was opposed by Audubon of Florida and other environmental groups and individuals — for legitimate reasons — as well as the Florida Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds, whose members operate private campgrounds, often near state parks, and feared the proposal would have a negative impact on their businesses.

Last week, under a growing wave of public criticism, state officials relented.

In a letter to Fasano, Herschel wrote: “As a result, the Department (of Environmental Protection), with the full support of Governor Rick Scott, will not recommend going forward with camping at Honeymoon Island State Park and will be evaluating how to proceed at Fanning Springs, DeLeon Springs, Edward Ball Wakulla Springs and any other park that was initially considered for campsite expansions,” the letter says.

Herschel also states he has “asked staff to meet with local communities, state park citizen support organizations and other park stakeholders before formally proposing the addition of amenities or services, including family camping, at any of our state parks.”

If and when Herschel’s staff meets with other park stakeholders, they’ll likely get an earful. Floridians are reluctant — and rightfully so — to put state parks in the hands of private, for-profit companies — whether to construct golf courses or campgrounds.

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