After a lengthy tour of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Gov. Rick Scott has decided not to close any of the 53 state parks previously listed for closure.
Following guidelines given by Scott, Florida State Parks, an entity within the FDEP, released a budget proposal that will cut their spending 15 percent. To do so, the department listed 53 state parks that would be closed to the public saving the state almost $7 million annually. The proposal would have closed three state parks in Tallahassee: Lake Jackson Mounds Archaeological State Parks, Lake Talquin State Park and Letchworth-Love Mounds Archaeological State Park.
After his tour of the department, Scott ended by holding a book with all of Florida’s state parks vowing not to close a single one. “No, we have beautiful parks,” Scott said. “As you know, we’ve gotten two gold medals for our parks. I think we have 20 million-plus visitors. So, no, we’ve got great parks, and we’ve got to make sure we preserve them and take care of them.” Florida is the first state to ever be awarded two gold medals from the National Recreation and Park Association while other individual parks have won awards all their own, according to the Florida State Parks website. Last year marked the 75th anniversary that Florida’s State Parks was awarded the 2010 National Dorothy Mullen Arts and Humanities Awards.
“The governor understands and values the importance of Florida’s 160 state parks to local economies, job creation and making Florida the ultimate tourism destination,” said Kristin Lock, Florida Department of Environmental Protection public information specialist. “Florida’s state parks are an invaluable asset that serve more than 20 million visitors and have a statewide economic impact of more than $807 million annually.”
The loss of any state parks could have had a severe impact on the state’s economy. State parks bring 16,000 jobs to communities statewide while roughly 100 private businesses operate out of the state parks. After Scott stated that he would not close any of the state parks, he turned his focus to the Florida Department of Community Affairs.
The DCA aims to ensure that all building growth complies with the state’s growth management laws. “On the campaign trail, I’ll tell you the one that everybody’s fed up with. It’s DCA,” Scott says. “It’s really impacted people that want to build things. Their attitude is, ‘How can somebody in Tallahassee tell my local community what we want and DCA sits there and tells us we can’t do it?’ … I’ll tell you, it’s really killing jobs.”