DEP upsets state park fans by proposing marina, cabins and other alterations

December 2, 2014 - Picnic Time

Three years ago, early in Gov. Rick Scott’s administration, his Department of Environmental Protection due vital changes in a state park complement — mostly to supplement some-more campgrounds and other facilities, including a place for recreational vehicles to park overnight during Honeymoon Island State Park.

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The offer ran into a firestorm of opposition. A open conference in Dunedin drew about 1,000 indignant people. After that, Scott himself pulled a plug.

Now some people who objected to those extreme park changes fear a DEP is doing a same thing all over again. They trust a organisation is perplexing to boost park assemblage while formulating construction jobs, mostly in beachfront parks.

“Those beach parks are genuine income cows,” pronounced Julie Wraithmell of Audubon Florida

In November, shortly after Scott’s re-election, a DEP reason a span of open hearings on due changes in state parks, including a park during Hillsborough County’s Cockroach Bay. What happened regenerated memories of a Honeymoon Island debacle.

And in a Panhandle, a Dr. Julian G. Bruce St. George Island State Park is regularly ranked among a tip 10 beaches in a United States. It captivated some-more than 200,000 visitors in 2013, according to park officials, and pumped some $9.7 million into a economy of Franklin County.

The 2,000-acre park has dual open vessel launches. To boost a series of park visitors, and so a income rolling in to state coffers, DEP officials due $8 million value of construction, building cabins and other camping areas as good as roads to get to them. They also wanted to build “a vessel wharf with adult to 30 slips” along with a new bathhouse and cruise pavilion.

According to those in attendance, about 40 people showed adult on a cold and stormy night to tell DEP officials what they suspicion of this proposal. Not one favourite it, generally a partial that everybody solely a DEP employees kept job “the marina.”

“There was no open support for a project,” pronounced Alan Pierce, executive of executive services for Franklin County, one of a open officials who showed adult during a hearing.

Residents worry that both a construction work and a successive boost in vessel trade would destroy a really thing that creates a park such a large attraction, Pierce explained. They have concerns about boaters withdrawal scars in a sea weed beds and transfer their on-board toilets in H2O where people swim.

Another reason for a opposition, Pierce said, is that a DEP’s grand devise blindsided everybody in Franklin County: “We didn’t know this was coming.”

The DEP’s mouthpiece pronounced a open conference was a approach a organisation let a open know what it had in mind —- and what it’s got in mind is perplexing to boost assemblage during a parks.

“The Florida Department of Environmental Protection stays committed to augmenting open entrance to a award-winning state parks,” DEP press secretary Tiffany Cowie said.

She pronounced a organisation hasn’t launched any renewed examination of a beach parks. Regular reviews of a government skeleton is a customary practice compulsory by state law. The DEP reviews about 15 of a 171 park skeleton each year, she said.

Cowie called a routine of rewriting a government skeleton “both pure and public” given people can attend a hearings and comment, as good as contention comments in writing.

Yet something identical to a St. George Island conference happened in Manatee County in November, when a DEP reason a open conference on creation changes to 3 parks only south of a Sunshine Skyway. Two are in Manatee County though one, Cockroach Bay Preserve State Park, is in Ruskin in Hillsborough County.

As with St. George Island, a DEP did not deliberate with internal officials or activists who had already worked on improving Cockroach Bay, pronounced Mariella Smith of a Sierra Club.

She was quite vicious of a DEP for holding a Cockroach Bay conference in a wrong county only for a preference of a possess staff, and for skeleton that she pronounced would cut behind on a dismissal of invasive plants such as Brazilian pepper.

She pronounced Florida Park Service executive Donald Forgione has positive her a DEP will reason a second conference on Cockroach Bay — this time, in Ruskin.

The dual Nov hearings were not a initial in that a DEP’s skeleton collided with open objections. A year ago, a DEP reason a conference on a offer to make large changes to another beachfront park, Camp Helen State Park in Panama City Beach. Local residents strongly against it.

The DEP’s devise for a 182-acre Camp Helen called for growth of a 10- to 12-cabin organisation camping area, dual dug-out and vessel launches, a vessel dock, a cruise pavilion area, a new park administration building with exhibits, new restrooms, and additional parking lots, trails, boardwalks and entrance roads.

The devise also called for formulating and putting out for bid concessions that could offer umbrellas, beach chairs, canoes and kayaks for lease to a tourists.

At final December’s hearing, internal residents pronounced those changes, quite a concessions, would change their dear park over recognition. The DEP has given deleted a cabins, condensed a boardwalk and forsaken a concessionaire offer after what a news recover from a organisation called “careful and courteous analysis.”

What DEP officials don’t get, Wraithmell said, is that a state park beaches attract visitors given they aren’t like other open beaches. They’re generally not lonesome in people and coolers and dogs and spawn from a break bar. They tend to be some-more primitive than that.

When a DEP tries to change a parks to container in some-more people, “the changes come during a responsibility of a resource,” she said. “They will destroy a really knowledge that done us acquire that land in a initial place.”

Craig Pittman can be reached during Follow him @craigtimes.

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