Newspaper Editorializes Against Florida Park Plan
Editor’s Note: The St. Petersburg Times published the following editorial today (July 7) in response to the state hearings held on Tuesday proposing the development of privately run campgrounds in state parks. Click here to read the editorial online.
The cacophonous howls of citizen protest and threats of civil disobedience in Dunedin on Tuesday night should make clear to Gov. Rick Scott that he can’t just rush plans to impose privately operated campgrounds on portions of 56 state parks, including the pristine and much-beloved Honeymoon Island State Park. Floridians take their public lands seriously, and the park’s own advisory council on Wednesday urged the governor to scuttle the idea. He should.
Scott should also order the Department of Environmental Protection to move forward more cautiously as it considers other sites. The DEP needs to make a convincing case to local communities that the proposed campgrounds are about more than sacrificing natural spaces for a fast buck to help balance the agency’s budget.
The plan to turn 17.5 acres at Honeymoon Island — currently home to gopher tortoises, other wildlife and vegetation — over to a private company to build and operate 45 campsites, some of which could be used by recreational vehicles, drew hundreds of protesters Tuesday for a public hearing before the DEP’s Division of Recreation and Parks. Some threatened to stage human barricades to prevent campground construction. Hundreds of others couldn’t get in the door. No one spoke in support of the plan.
New governors are apt to make missteps, and this has been a major one. Scott needs to respect the public will to protect one of the finest state parks systems in the nation — and a crown jewel like Honeymoon Island.