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Newspaper Blogger Takes Middle Road on Park Issue

July 7, 2011 by   - () Leave a Comment

Editor’s Note: The following editorial was written by Ron Littlepage and published today (July 7) in the Florida Times Union, Jacksonville, Fla., under the headline “Can Nature and RVs Coexist?” Click here to read the editorial online.

In case you have missed this debate, the state is considering plans to let private companies build and operate overnight campgrounds, including spaces for RVs, in 56 state parks.

One of the first parks for consideration is Honeymoon Island, located on the Gulf Coast near Dunedin, which drew 1.1 million visitors last year, the most of any of the state’s parks.

Craig Pittman of the St. Petersburg Times reported that the idea went over with a big thud when more than 400 people turned out Tuesday night for a public hearing on the proposal for Honeymoon Island.

According to Pittman’s dispatch, the sentiment was a unanimous thumbs down with comments such as this from Jan Allyn of the Florida Native Plant Society: “This group will lay down in front of the bulldozers before we let this happen.”

Florida has 160 state parks with 53 allowing camping. Those campsites brought in $15.5 million for the state last year, and clearly the more campgrounds proposal is about increasing revenue.

Whether it’s a good idea depends on the individual park under consideration. Campgrounds, including RVs, could work in some parks but not others.

But increasing access to our parks increases the awareness of their value, and too many state parks, including some in Northeast Florida, are virtually unknown.

It’s a fine line to walk, but I will say this: I look forward to the day our area’s parks create the kind of passionate enthusiasm that Honeymoon Island does.

That will only happen when more people get out and enjoy them.

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