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Allegations surface that Florida Gov. Rick Scott wants to privatize camping in state parks (Corrected)

In recent months, the Scott administration has cut $305 million from environmental land-buying projects in the state budget, all but ignored pleas to halt the construction of a Georgia-Pacific pipeline to funnel additional effluent into the St. Johns River and attempted to halt or delay the implementation of a set of criteria to govern water pollution in the state.The administration also made cuts to the state’s five water management districts, and sent out a memo asking them to “reexamine” how they do business. #

Now, new allegations that the administration hopes to begin privatizing camping in some state parks have surfaced. #

A recent St. Petersburg Times editorial reports that the Florida Department of Environmental Protection has drawn up a plan to turn over portions of more than 50 state parks to private corporations to build camping and RV sites. #

The initiative is a bold one, and would affect some of Florida’s most famous state parks. In one instance, the plan would lead to the construction of 45 campsites on 17.5 acres of Honeymoon Island, to accommodate both recreational vehicles and tents. According to the Times, the pronouncement has been launched “mostly outside the public’s view.” #

From the Times op-ed: #

Earlier this month, the division won approval, 7-2, from DEP’s Acquisition and Restoration Council, a little-noticed advisory group, to expedite the planning process to create more private concessions at the 56 state parks. But this is more than privatizing snack bars, canoe rentals or gift shops. It’s about turning over portions of state parks to private enterprises to build and run campgrounds, often in environmentally sensitive locations that are already being heavily utilized by day visitors. #

At Honeymoon Island, for example, the plan for 45 campsites on 17.5 acres — including electric and water hookups for RVs in an area now designated for picnicking — would add an estimated 300 more people to the park’s daily 5,326 visitors. The plan will likely require the relocation of gopher tortoises, the division’s proposal acknowledges, and selective cutting of trees, the building of stormwater basins and an archaeological study to ensure no cultural resources are lost. Wastewater from bathhouses and an RV “dump station” will be carted offsite to a treatment facility. #

According to the Department of Environmental Protection’s press officer, Dee Ann Miller, an effort to increase campsites statewide is in the works, but it’s “too soon” to discuss logistics. #

Writes Miller, in an email: #

At this time it is simply too soon to talk about any possible logistics of how camping could be expanded in state parks in the future and what it would look like. This is an idea from Florida Park Service leaders to continue to provide Florida’s citizens and visitors high-quality camping opportunities, as it is by far one of our most popular activities. There are multiple campgrounds, particularly those in South Florida, that are reserved year-round and many of the 53 state parks that offer campgrounds are booked every weekend. With the cost of constructing campgrounds in the millions of dollars, the Florida Park Service will ensure all avenues to expand camping are investigated, including private construction and operation. However, this is no reflection on current operations nor is it a trial for possible privatization of current camping facilities at state parks. #

Miller cites a Florida statute — Chapter 258.007 (3) — that gives the Division of Recreation and Parks the power to “grant concessions for the use of land for the accommodation of visitors.” She says the division first began working with the private sector about 50 years ago, and that today, “nearly 100 private vendors operate within state parks.” #

“Any private vendors that work within state parks will remain true to the mission of the Florida Park Service and its core values,” writes Miller. “Currently, there is not a specific timeframe for releasing a Call for Business Plans for these specific park campgrounds.” #

The Department of Environmental Protection’s Division of Recreation and Parks will host public meetings on Tues., July 5, and Wed., July 6, at locations throughout the state, to address the potential for adding family camping at De Leon Springs, Edward Ball Wakulla Springs, Fanning Springs and Honeymoon Island state parks. “These public meeting are only the first step in examining the potential for increasing family camping opportunities and amending the park unit management plans,” Miller writes. #

Below, a full list of the “State Parks with Potential for Providing New Family Camping Areas”: #

  • Alfred B. Maclay Gardens State Park [#](http://floridaindependent.com/36474/does-the-scott-administration-want-to-privatize-camping-in-state-parks#p14)
  • Allen David Broussard Catfish Creek Preserve State Park [#](http://floridaindependent.com/36474/does-the-scott-administration-want-to-privatize-camping-in-state-parks#p15)
  • Atlantic Ridge Preserve State Park [#](http://floridaindependent.com/36474/does-the-scott-administration-want-to-privatize-camping-in-state-parks#p16)
  • Beker State Park [#](http://floridaindependent.com/36474/does-the-scott-administration-want-to-privatize-camping-in-state-parks#p17)
  • Big Shoals State Park [#](http://floridaindependent.com/36474/does-the-scott-administration-want-to-privatize-camping-in-state-parks#p18)
  • Big Talbot Island State Park [#](http://floridaindependent.com/36474/does-the-scott-administration-want-to-privatize-camping-in-state-parks#p19)
  • Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park [#](http://floridaindependent.com/36474/does-the-scott-administration-want-to-privatize-camping-in-state-parks#p20)
  • Blue Spring State Park [#](http://floridaindependent.com/36474/does-the-scott-administration-want-to-privatize-camping-in-state-parks#p21)
  • Cedar Key Scrub State Reserve [#](http://floridaindependent.com/36474/does-the-scott-administration-want-to-privatize-camping-in-state-parks#p22)
  • Charlotte Harbor Preserve State Park #
  • Crystal River Preserve State Park #
  • Dagny Johnson Key Largo Hammock Botanical State Park #
  • De Leon Springs State Park #
  • Deer Lake State Park #
  • Don Pedro Island State Park #
  • Econfina River State Park #
  • Edward Ball Wakulla Springs State Park #
  • Estero Bay Preserve State Park #
  • Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park #
  • Fanning Springs State Park #
  • Faver-Dykes State Park #
  • Fort Cooper State Park #
  • Fort Pierce Inlet State Park #
  • Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park #
  • Honeymoon Island State Park #
  • Hugh Taylor Birch State Park #
  • Ichetucknee Springs State Park #
  • Indian River Lagoon Preserve State Park #
  • John D. MacArthur Beach State Park #
  • Lake Jackson Mounds Archaeological State Park #
  • Lake June-in-Winter Scrub State Park #
  • Lake Talquin State Park #
  • Letchworth-Love Mounds Archaeological State Park #
  • Lovers Key State Park #
  • Lower Wekiva River Preserve State Park #
  • North Peninsula State Park #
  • Okeechobee Battlefield Historic State Park #
  • Oleta River State Park #
  • Ponce de Leon Springs State Park #
  • Pumpkin Hill Creek Preserve State Park #
  • River Rise Preserve State Park #
  • Rock Springs Run State Reserve #
  • San Felasco Hammock Preserve State Park #
  • Savannas Preserve State Park #
  • Seabranch Preserve State Park #
  • Skyway Fishing Pier State Park #
  • St. Marks River State Park #
  • St. Sebastian River Preserve State Park #
  • Tarkiln Bayou Preserve State Park #
  • Terra Ceia Preserve State Park #
  • Torreya State Park #
  • Troy Spring State Park #
  • Washington Oaks Gardens State Park #
  • Weeki Wachee Springs State Park #
  • Werner-Boyce Salt Springs State Park #
  • Wes Skiles Peacock Springs State Park #

Correction: #

As the Times‘ Craig Pittman notes on Twitter, the piece quoted above is a Times editorial, not an op-ed. We regret the error. For more information, read his June 25 piece on the state park plan here. #

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