Advocates urge full funding for state parks this year

Florida wetlands
Florida wetlands. J Hauserman photo

Advocates for Florida’s state parks, including former gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham, gathered in Tallahassee Wednesday to urge state lawmakers to fully fund parks and the state’s conservation land-buying program, Florida Forever.

Florida Forever used to get $300 million a year, paid for by an already-existing tax on real estate transactions. In recent years, the amount set aside for land-buying has dwindled.

In this year’s budget plans, Gov. Ron DeSantis has proposed $54 million for state parks and $100 million for Florida Forever, but the proposed budgets by the state House and Senate are far below that, advocates say. The Senate has earmarked just $15 million for parks, and the House $45 million. On Florida Forever, the Senate is proposing only $20 million and the the House $45 million, said Julia Gill Woodward, chief executive officer of the Florida State Parks Foundation, an advocacy group that supports parks. Graham is a board member.

The parks are especially in need now, the advocates say, because of multi-million dollar damage from hurricanes, including at least $50 million in rebuilding costs from Hurricane Michael.

“Florida has the finest parks system in the nation, but it’s protection and management isn’t free,” said Jim Stevenson, a retired state environmental official.

Julie Hauserman
Julie Hauserman has been writing about Florida for more than 30 years. She is a former Capitol bureau reporter for the St. Petersburg (Tampa Bay) Times, and reported for The Stuart News and the Tallahassee Democrat. She was a national commentator for National Public Radio’s Weekend Edition Sunday and The Splendid Table . She has won many awards, including two nominations for the Pulitzer Prize. Her work is featured in several Florida anthologies, including The Wild Heart of Florida , The Book of the Everglades , and Between Two Rivers . Her new book is Drawn to The Deep, a University Press of Florida biography of Florida cave diver and National Geographic explorer Wes Skiles.

2 COMMENTS

  1. Unfortunately many of our elected officials only value our State Parks when they need a backdrop for a photo opportunity. Our parks filter drinking water, purify the air, don’t require large public infrastructure costs,provide thousands of jobs and millions of dollars to the State coffers. Our parks receive as many or more visitors than Disney properties on meager budgets. We all need to support these natural and cultural treasures for future generations.

  2. The idea that our state government would, after 3 major hurricanes, deplete the funding of our state Parks is simply unimaginably stupid. Everyone wants to go the ribbon cutting when DEP purchases land for a park, but the same people in our government seem to be blissfully unaware that you have to maintain property and land to keep it at an acceptable level for tourists and habitat and to keep out invasive plants and animals.
    None of these Republican leaders would purchase an expensive office building and not set aside a set amount of funds to maintain it. But with parks and land, they just dont care. Its a travesty the Governor’s recommendation is a political football.

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