Grand ideas to turn Florida’s state parks into money-makers have come and gone over the years. As reported by the Tallahassee Democrat, water parks, golf courses, swank hotels — such development visions have been floated, then abandoned after public outcry.
But a current, more low-key push led by the Department of Environmental Protection’s new Secretary Jon Steverson to allow logging, cattle grazing and hunting on park lands, has longtime park advocates really worried.
Dozens of former DEP and Florida Park Service officials who spent decades-long careers tending the state’s roughly 800,000 acres of state-park lands have publicly expressed their opposition to Steverson’s desire to make the system financially self-sustaining by embracing a “multiple use” approach in order to boost revenue.
The change, they say, is the most significant in the park system’s 80-year history and undermines the single reason the parks were created and have flourished — to provide outdoor recreation and to protect natural and cultural resources.
“What’s different about this effort is that it’s challenging the original purpose of state parks,” said Phillip Werndli, who worked for 18 years as the park’s statewide volunteer coordinator and retired last year as assistant bureau chief over natural and cultural resources.
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