Floridians have been fortunate to have outstanding beautiful, public outdoor recreational opportunities. The parks not only provide a safe habitat for endangered plants and animals, protect green spaces from encroaching development, but also provide affordable nature-based recreational opportunities for families today and for future generations. From the beaches to the forest to the hiking and biking trails to the historic landmarks-Florida State Parks offer visitors a close look at the real Florida.
In this severe economic downturn, we need to come together to show support for our state parks. As conditions worsen, the legislature and Congress are scrambling to plug holes in their budgets. As with all allocations, legislators are scrutinizing the funding for state parks. There has been talk of some temporary park closures.
This weeks news indicates significant cuts to Florida state agencies delivering services to its citizens. What has not been mentioned in the media is the proposal to close 58 state parks two to three days each week. On the days that these parks open, it will only be for eight hours rather than the dawn to dusk access we now enjoy. More than 110 full- time park employees and all seasonal part-time positions are eliminated under this proposed reduction. The entire operation of the Office of Greenways and trails is proposed to be eliminated.
While gloomy economic news, bailouts and greed continue to make headlines Florida State Parks have seen record attendance over the past three months. This is proof that Florida’s families need these parks in order to participate in healthy outdoors activities during times of stress. A family of four can visit a park for an entire day for a $5 per carload entry fee. They can even bring along grandma and grandpa.
Source: Elaine McLaughlin, Friends of Florida State Parks, March 26,2009