Following up on our Feb. 4 post about the 53 state parks and six aquatic preserves the Department of Environmental Protection proposed closing to slash its budget by 15 percent — everything I’ve read and heard from local activists suggests the FDEP proposal was not included in the 166-page budget Rick Scott presented yesterday. This does not mean the parks and preserves, including the Barnacle in Coconut Grove and the Biscayne Bay Aquatic Preserve, are safe. NB: This excerpt from naplesnews.com:
Scott’s budget does not make any specific recommendations about state parks to close, but his proposal to cut the DEP’s budget by 180 jobs and $148 million is severe enough to put at least some parks on the chopping block, said Audubon of Florida executive director Eric Draper.
“You get rid of the government that protects these places,” Draper said, “you turn them over to the pirates.”
Scott’s budget proposal includes cuts all around, including a $4.8 billion (that’s billion with a B, as in pinky-to-corner-of-mouth) slash to the state’s education budget. Having worked at a public elementary school in North Miami for three years, I shudder to think of our already deeply flawed school system trying to make do with less money. From the Miami Herald:
State Sen. Eleanor Sobel, D-Hollywood, … said that would hurt the state’s kids, its educational environment and the state’s business climate.
“The No. 1 question businesses ask when they come here is how is the education system,” Sobel said. “If you’re cutting money at that level, you’re not going to attract the kind of businesses that we want to have.”
Although the parks and preserves appear safe, budget parsers are still parsing the budget and I suppose anything can happen in the legislative approval process (some commentators expect big changes to Scott’s proposal). Students from the University of North Florida (UNF) recently started a petition on change.org telling Gov. Scott and the Florida legislature to spare Florida’s parks. From the change.org article:
The group has been working with the Timucuan Trail Parks Foundation and JaxParks lately to promote areas like Fort George, Castaway Island and Hanna Park in Jacksonville and to help urbanites and suburbanites slow down, relax, and receive benefit from the natural pace of the natural world. A funding cut for these public resources would undermine such work and have the opposite effect.
“Selling our parks to land developers, which is ultimately what will happen if this motion passes, should not be an option,” [said] Erica Kelly, UNF’s Student Campaign Director.
You can learn more about the UNF campaign HERE.