Sunday, February 13, 2011

Are Florida state parks on the endangered list?

This past week, my local newspaper had a story on the future of many of Florida’s state parks. Our newly-elected governor has proposed a budget that paints a bleak picture for the state as a whole and particularly its state parks. It is estimated that under this budget one third of all Florida’s parks will be closed, especially the least-visited. Four of those parks are located practically in my back yard. Today, my family and I decided to visit two of those parks before they are lost to the budget-axe.

The Dagny Johnson Key Largo Hammock Botanical State Park.

This 2300-acre park is located in Key Largo, the northernmost Key; it has the largest tracks of West Indian hammock and is also home of many protected species of plants and animals.
In the 1980’s, this land was going to be developed into a massive Mediterranean-style condo complex that would have destroyed the hammock. Many local citizens fought the developers and won, including the woman the park was named after.

The park has over six miles of nature trails, most of them paved and accessible by bicycles. Self-guided nature trails provide information about the park´s ecosystem and wildlife.

Windley Key Fossil Reef Gealogical State Park

This park is near Islamorada, the second Florida Key. Formed of Key Largo limestone and fossilized coral, this land was sold to the Florida East Coast Railroad, which used the stone to build Henry Flagler's Overseas Railroad in the early 1900s. The quarry was used until the 1960’s to produce exquisite pieces of decorative stone called Keystone.

Today, visitors can walk along eight-foot-high quarry walls to see cross-sections of the ancient coral and learn about the quarry and its operation, an important part of Florida's 20th century history. Samples of the quarry machinery have been preserved at the park.

The park has approximately 1.5 miles of trails that wind through a tropical hardwood hammock. Along the trails, visitors are able to observe over 40 species of trees and plants that are native to the Florida Keys.

Our newly elected governor, Rick Scott, facing a state budget deficit of $3.6 billion dollars even before taking office, has forged ahead to propose a new budget with an additional $2 billion in tax cuts for home owners and Florida corporations, ballooning the deficit to $5.6 billion. The answer is to “balance” the budget with stop-gap measures such as closing these parks.

Scott tells me that as a homeowner in this state I can look forward to approximately $500 in tax cuts for the next two years. Polifac, a non-partisan organization, published an article today stating that the tax cut will really average to $214 for each homeowner for the next two years. If governor Rick Scott is reading this blog, please keep my $214 in tax cuts and use it to keep my parks open as well as properly fund education the way the children of Florida deserve!


Gina said...

How sad if the budget cuts close any of Florida's parks! With so much needed and deserving attention finally being given to our environment how can the government even consider cutting in this area?! Thank you for the post and sharing this park with us.

Susan said...

Ditto from me, Rusty. I realize we have to cut back, but we can't lose valuable parks such as these. We need to wring out the waste in government first. Thanks for sharing the info. and the pics of the parks.

Dawn said...

Rusty, I am also very concerned about this policy of Scott's. We visited one of our local parks on Saturday, I don't know if it is on his hit list, but it always appears to be well visited. My understanding is that the public lands were funded with bond money, which we are paying for. Going forward, what do they intend to do with these parks they have slated to close? Leave them abandoned? Put them up for Sale? And to whom? Overseas Investors? In England we have vast miles and tracks of land that are open to the public that do not appear to need year round maintenance crews to pay for? Is there a middle ground perhaps....just thinking out loud here.

sanddune said...

Last I heard the Dept of Environmental Protection came up with the plan to close 53 Florida parks as a way to reduce it's budget by 15%. The Governer Rick Scott according to the local paper has promised to keep the parks open. Let's hope he keeps that promise and recognizes the value of tourism to Florida as well as the benefits the parks bring to us taxpaying citizens.

Dawn said...

Hurrah Sanddune! And not also for the benefit of taxpayers of Florida but in addition for the flora, fauna and wildlife that have been forced into these pockets of wilderness by the paving of paradise. They (the local governments) could offer double community service hours to local Floridian high school kids, for pick up and maintenance of parks.

Grower Jim said...

It's sad that people weren't paying attention BEFORE the election. This is just what many people expected from Scott. I hope there will be a huge public outcry that forces him to change his proposal for park closings.

The Florida Blogger said...

Well said! I heard the state parks made the cut and are going to remain.

antigonum cajan said...

How do you close a six mile park?

Rusty in Miami said...

I asked a park ranger what happens to these parks if they are closed. She felt that the land will remain in state hands (I don’t know about that) but they simply fence off the property and leave it to grow wild and at the mercy of vandals. Lets hope that cooler heads will prevail when the budget goes to the state legislature for final approval.