Proposal to close parks, preserves not in Scott’s budget

By | February 8th, 2011 | 5 Comments
Rick Scott unveiling budget

Rick Scott unveils his $65.9 billion budget proposal during a tea party rally in Central Florida. -- AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack

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.


5 Comments on “Proposal to close parks, preserves not in Scott’s budget”

  1. 1 Blanca Mesa said at 4:10 pm on February 8th, 2011:

    I wouldn’t be so sure that Florida parks and natural areas are out of the woods when it comes to Scott’s budget proposal or the legislature, lest it lead people to believe there is no problem and no one has to speak up anymore. Audubon of Florida calls his budget proposal a “recipe for neglect” of Florida’s environment. The Florida Forever program, that has bought so many wildlands for conservation, has been defunded, everglades restoration funds have been slashed as has the DEP budget that manages the state parks and preserves. floridaenvironments.com has a good rundown of the proposed cuts to environmental programs.

    the state’s premier land-buying program, Florida Forever, was not allocated any funding.

    The Department of Community Affairs (oversees the state’s growth management regulation) is effectively eliminatedve, appears to have been split, farmed out to other agencies (like DEP), and ultimately reduced to a shadow of its former self. It remains to be seen how these functions will be retained.

    4) The Governor interspersed his budget’s line items with goals and benchmarks for achievement, such as increasing state land attendance by 3% in the next two years. Audubon supports this revenue-generating goal, and encourages all our supporters to enjoy natural Florida this coming weekend.

    5) While State Park attendance was, appropriately, a focus in the Governor’s budget, the fate of the park closures remains to be seen. The Governor did not specifically address the closures proposal in his budget.

  2. 2 Jordan Melnick said at 5:16 pm on February 8th, 2011:

    Thanks for the comment, Blanca. I believe I expressed a similar precaution (“This does not mean the parks and preserves … are safe”), but with this administration echoing that message may be the only way to keep a square foot of Florida unpaved.

  3. 3 Jordan Melnick said at 11:37 pm on February 8th, 2011:

    Revision: I changed the title of this post from “State parks, preserves look safe in Scott’s budget” to the current title because I realized (with some help) that it implied they were safe. Which they most certainly are not.

  4. 4 Leah said at 2:02 pm on February 9th, 2011:

    Ah, the glorious things that happen when you try to run a state like a business…

  5. 5 Jordan Melnick said at 5:32 pm on February 13th, 2011:

    So is this the final word?


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