Audubon Florida News

Department of Environmental Protection Proposes to Close 53 State Parks

posted on January 27, 2011 in FL Special Places,Land Conservation

Florida Park ServiceIn what has become an annual exercise, the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) along with other agencies, yesterday presented to the Legislature reductions they would make if ordered to reduce their budgets by 15%. In a year when the state faces a nearly $4B shortfall, this is likely to be more than just an exercise; and with the high proportion of freshman members, there is less familiarity than past years with the importance of Florida’s environmental programs.

Part of DEP’s proposal last year, which was not adopted, was to close some parks to public access to result in expense savings. This year, this proposal includes an unprecedented 53 state parks which garner the least attendance and do not have camping, despite being economic engines in some of Florida’s smallest and most rural communities.

Additionally, three parks—Egmont Key, Three Rivers and Forest Capital—are proposed to be returned to their primary owners, whether or not those owners have the capacity to manage them for conservation and public access.

Egmont Key State Park Courtesy of Florida Park ServiceWednesday in the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Appropriations Committee, members seemed concerned but not willing to simply remove these cuts from the table. One suggested these lands should be sold to put them back on county tax rolls. Another suggested enlisting cash-strapped local governments to manage them. A third suggested closing them “except on weekends.”

The list of proposed park closures is below. Are these some of the places you would consider among Florida’s Special Places? Tell us why these sites are important to you, and share that with your legislators too. The House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee and Senate General Government Appropriations Committee will be the first to consider which cuts they will accept.

Of course, more reductions were proposed in DEP as well as the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Committee and other important conservation programs. Be sure you are subscribed to Audubon’s Advocate e-newsletter to receive our thorough summary at the end of this and each committee week, through the State Legislative Session.

    The 53 Florida State Parks

  • Allen David Broussard Catfish Creek Preserve State Park, Haines City
  • Atlantic Ridge Preserve State Park, Stuart
  • Big Shoals State Park, White Springs
  • Bulow Plantation Ruins Historic State Park, Flagler Beach
  • Camp Helen State Park, Panama City Beach
  • Cedar Key State Museum State Park, Cedar Key
  • Colt Creek State Park, Lakeland
  • Constitution Convention Museum State Park, Port St. Joe
  • Crystal River Archaeological State Park, Crystal River
  • Dade Battlefield Historic State Park, Bushnell
  • Dagny Johsnon Key Largo Hammock Botanical State Park, Key Largo
  • Deer Lake State Park, Santa Rosa Beach
  • Devil’s Millhopper Geological State Park, Gainesville
  • Don Pedro Island State Park, Boca Granda
  • Dudley Farm Historic State Park, Newberry
  • Dunn’s Creek State Park, Pomona
  • Estero Bay Preserve State Park, Estero
  • Fort Cooper State Park, Inverness
  • Fort George Island Cultural State Park, Jacksonville
  • Fort Mose Historic State Park, St. Augustine
  • John Gorrie Museum State Park, Apalachicola
  • Judah P. Benjamin Confederate Memorial at Gamble Plantation Historic State Park, Ellenton
  • Lake Jackson Mounds Archaeological State Park, Tallahassee
  • Lake June-in-Winter Scrub State Park, Sebring
  • Lake Talquin State Park, Tallahassee
  • Letchworth-Love Mounds Archaeological State Park, Tallahassee
  • Lignumvitae Key Botanical State Park, Islamorada
  • Madison Blue Spring State Park, Lee
  • Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings Historic State Park, Cross Creek
  • Natural Bridge Battlefield Historic State Park, Woodville
  • Olustee Battlefield Historic State Park, Olustee
  • Orman House Historic State Park, Apalachicola
  • Paynes Creek Historic State Park, Bowling Green
  • Peacock Springs State Park, Luraville
  • Perdido Key State Park, Pensacola
  • Ponce de Leon Springs State Park, Ponce de Leon
  • Pumpkin Hill Creek Preserve State Park, Jacksonville
  • Rock Springs Run State Reserve, Sorrento
  • San Felasco Hammock Preserve State Park, Alachua
  • San Marcos de Apalache Historic State Park, St. Marks
  • Savannas Preserve State Park, Jensen Beach
  • St. Lucie Inlet Preserve State Park, Stuart
  • St. Sebastian River Preserve State Park, Fellsmere
  • Suwannee River Wilderness Trail/Nature and Heritage Tourism Center, White Springs
  • Terra Ceia Preserve State Park, Palmetto
  • The Barnacle Historic State Park, Coconut Grove
  • Troy Spring State Park, Branford
  • Wacasassa Bay Preserve State Park, Cedar Key
  • Washington Oaks Gardens State Park, Palm Coast
  • Werner-Boyce Salt Springs State Park, Port Richey
  • Windley Key Fossil Reef Geological State Park, Islamorada
  • Ybor City Museum State Park, Tampa
  • Yellow River Marsh Preserve State Park, Holt


  1. All I can say is our state is doomed skeletor is in control and we can thank all the fine citizens of florida for putting him there.This is just one of the many bad things this guys gonna be responsible for before he’s through.For all the idiots that didn’t vote they should be flogged.This guy isn’t even a florida cracker so state parks are the pretty low on his priority list.To all the teabaggers out there I guess this is what Jesus would do.After all the teabagger interpretation of Jesus is he hates poor people that can’t defend themselves and only the rich will get into heaven.

    Comment by dave — February 7, 2011 @ 8:14 pm

  2. I recently watched a program on television that talked about our state parks. They said that even though they had to raise entry fees they had seen a record number of visitors this past year. What are they thinking. How about pay cuts for these politicians! At a time when people are becoming more health conscious, we desperately need our state parks. I personally love visiting these parks and have camped with my family and taken day trips to dozens of these parks. Also, more people are beginning to take advantage of these parks as an inexpensive time out with family. DONT DO IT! DONT CLOSE THE PARKS.

    Comment by DEAN — February 8, 2011 @ 5:48 am

  3. This is so sad, where is the bail out for our parks?

    Comment by Sara — February 8, 2011 @ 6:59 am

  4. I’m from Texas and don’t even visit your State Parks, but this is dumb. Florida, like Texas, is known for it’s State Parks. Raise the fees, people will still come. Don’t lose a great resource for your children. As a Master Naturalist and leader of walks for adults and children, I love to see a child’s eyes light up when you show them a cool insect, or a scary spider, or a beautiful flower. DON’T CLOSE THE PARKS !!!! GET RID OF A FEW EXTRANEOUS POLITICIANS !!!!!

    Comment by Troy Mullens — February 8, 2011 @ 7:10 am

  5. […] Special Places campaign. Recently, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection proposed a plan to close 53 of our state parks. The response to this unsettling news has been incredible. People from around our state and country […]

    Pingback by 53 Parks in 53 Days: Washington Oaks Gardens State Park | Audubon of Florida News — February 8, 2011 @ 7:29 am

  6. Hello! Check out the possibility that the DEP wants the profits from our popular State Parks to cover overall cuts in DEP funding? Or consider that this a DEP political ploy to save its other “Low or No Value Added” environmental activities?

    Comment by Carl Bennett — February 8, 2011 @ 8:21 am

  7. I say all those who voted for Rick Scott, this is what ya get! We’ll reconsider next time Mr. Scott! I sure hope you’re listening.

    Comment by Christina — February 8, 2011 @ 11:02 am

  8. Bushnell, Florida by no means is an entertainment hot spot. There is no bowling alley, movie theater, mall, or even a nice sit down restaurant (unless you call Sonny’s BBQ “nice”) in the area.

    All we have is Dade Battle Field. In a small town with few entertainment luxuries, Dade Battle Field offers a safe place for children and adults. The park is clean and the playground is safe for small children. There are hiking trails and bike paths.

    I’ve attended numerous weddings, birthday parties, cook outs and other events including the annual battle reenactment. Dade Battle Field is more than just a historic landmark. It is a place for the residents of Bushnell to enjoy picnics and spend time with friends.

    If you close the park, you take away the best part of our little town. Sure, we may not draw thousands of visitors a year, but for a town of about 2,000 residents, Dade Battle Field is an important part of living in Bushnell.

    Comment by Anita — February 8, 2011 @ 11:06 am

  9. The closing of any State Park is a bad idea. Aside from removing the safe-guarding of some of Florida’s most precious resources, the economic impact goes well beyond the revenue that is generated by admission. I for one buy a Family Pass every year at Maclay Gardens State park and use it at and mostly for entry into a number of parks that do not have camping, but do have other recreational venues. Should some of the parks close, I would not have the incentive to buy that pass. I have successfully encouraged others to do so, people who would otherwise not have visited any State Park.
    I am a SCUBA diver and am aware of a number of parks that provide this opportunity. Having formerly managed a Dive Shop, we used these parks as training sites. I have employed many as dive instructors, I have rented equipment and sold merchandise and air fills to many, a great deal from out of state, and those revenues generated jobs for my employees and State Sales Tax to Florida.
    I am aware of dive sites that are on private properties that have been trespassed on and some have resulted in accidents and incidents that had they been in a State Park would not have occurred. Closing parks like Troy Springs, Madison Springs, Ponce De Leon Springs and Peacock Springs will not keep divers out, but will make it more dangerous. Even if they are sold and allowed to be operated by private vendors they will not have the benefit of being part of the State Park System. Some State Parks like Lafayette Blue Springs that do not allow recreational diving will now become attractive to divers and could result in injuries or damage that result in geological or sanitation damage.
    There are private venues that offer diving and none of them afford the additional educational opportunities to those who are using them. The importance of our aquifer, the natural history of our unique state, I can’t begin to list the many lessons that I have learned, the hours of peace and enjoyment I have experienced. Were it up to me I would be looking for opportunities to acquire more State Parks and market them more aggressively. No one has ever left one of these parks a worse person.
    Divers are for the most part, responsible citizens. It would be advantageous for some parks, now not allowing diving, to consider opening for diving. Lake Hall at Maclay Gardens State Park would make an ideal site for dive training. Sally Ward Springs at Wakulla Springs State Park allows diving for certain divers, and justifiably so. Other springs in the Wakulla Springs park system could also be opened for diving even if certain restrictions were applied: Special fees, no unsupervised diving, specially briefed instructor supervision through local dive shops who would pay for the opportunity and privilege, and check in and out procedures with the Main Gate.
    Diving is big business in Florida. We would often take new divers on trips to the Keys. On our return; we would always schedule a stop at spring in a State Park to break up the trip and relax one last time. It provided a non invasive rinse of our equipment, the opportunity for ease of entry secure and peaceful diving, final memory of a special adventure. Often it was the favorite dive of the trip.
    Typically, I would be in favor of privatizing many government services. Florida’s State Parks and its personnel are one of the true exceptions to this. Closing any State Park would be a travesty. We should be looking at ways to do more of what we have done well, not less.

    Comment by Fleet Pride — February 8, 2011 @ 3:56 pm

  10. As someone said already, please thank a Park Ranger for their dedication to the natural Florida. It’s not about making money, it’s the love of the Natural and Cultural Resources! Also when you’re at a State Park, thank the Volunteers!

    Comment by Jan — February 10, 2011 @ 4:47 am

  11. I see where someone said we should consider the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corp) from the Depression era. My Father was a member of this group and they did a lot of good in the Federal Parks and Forests.

    Florida did have something like this in the past but it was The Florida Youth Conservation Corp, It was mainly for undereducated young adults, it was overseen by the EPA and run by a private non profit organization. It was very successful as the youth worked in the parks for minimum wage, while gaining a high school education and learning other life skills. The EPA in all its wisdom decided it could no longer fund it, and it was dissolved.

    The Florida Youth Conservation Corp was considered to be one of the best in the nation and a example for many other states to follow and most of them still do.

    Comment by Terry Davis — February 10, 2011 @ 10:15 am

  12. Privitization! That will save them, NOT! Unfortunately that’s what likely will be suggested soon by some idiot Congressperson with a friend or relative in the park consessions industry.

    Comment by Mike — February 11, 2011 @ 1:10 am

  13. Let’s just take everything that IS Florida and why we live in Florida and close it off to those in the state that actually enjoy outdoor recreation. Better yet, let’s privatize the land so developers can get hold of it and give us more crap. Here’s a crazy idea speaking of crap, maybe increase the park entry fees to help pay for toilet paper and cleaning the one bathroom at San Felasco. Better yet, have all those on welfare (i.e. Florida Medicaid) start to contribute to society by actually having a small co-pay for the healthcare and prescriptions that they receive free – compliments of YOU. Maybe we could use that additional income to off set the cost of other state programs that ALL Florida residents can benefit from!

    Comment by Eric — February 11, 2011 @ 6:56 pm

  14. […] A complete list can be found here: […]

    Pingback by From Ocala Mountain Bike Association: Greenway trails are at risk again! « Soul Of Miami — February 12, 2011 @ 9:46 am

  15. WOW, I am truly saddened to see Rock Springs Run on their list. I am sad for all of the parks on the list but RSR was one of the first parks I went to with my group: Triple B” and also went with others independantly as friendly groups. We only had cold water showers and the racoons were thick as thieves but we had a super blast there. How sad it is for our country these days…..

    Comment by S. Holcomb — February 12, 2011 @ 4:58 pm

  16. I was born in Gainesville and remember being taken by my parents to Florida parks when I was a child: Millhopper to look for shark’s teeth in the creek, Cedar Key to get oysters and visit the park, later to Blue Springs, White Springs, Cross Creek and other parks on the list. I developed a love for nature and the environment through these visits, and feel very sad that our youth will not have these opportunities in the future if Florida law-makers don’t act in a responsible manner. I have been away from Florida since 1975, but every time I have returned it has been to visit a park there. Please preserve Florida’s heritage for the future and don’t sell out.

    Comment by Pamela Reaves — February 12, 2011 @ 9:18 pm

  17. So, I’m wondering how NEW (not aquired)acquisition projects keep gaining momemtum?

    For example, Big Bend Swamp/Holopaw Ranch.

    There are all kinds of acquisition projects in Florida, with no money to buy, and now no money to operate and maintain. State of Florida, quit biting off more than you can chew!

    Comment by Curtis — February 14, 2011 @ 5:12 am

  18. We need natural parks for a healthy environment. Our Kids also need this important resource of oxigen and nature. Please do not close the parks!!!

    Comment by Nick — February 14, 2011 @ 2:05 pm

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    Pingback by 53 Florida state parks may fall victim to budget cuts. « Erica Martin's Blog — February 16, 2011 @ 9:04 am

  20. i say keep the parks open and raise the fee to enter. its for the family who plays together and the enjoyment for them

    Comment by sharon — February 16, 2011 @ 11:17 am

  21. We mountain bike every weekend and although we usually go to Santos, sometimes we go to the closer, San Felasco. If trails begin to dwindle, and without many options near Gainesville, we may seriously consider moving out of state. Mountain biking is that important to us.

    Comment by Lori G. — February 21, 2011 @ 6:34 am

  22. They do know that FDR helped us out of the last Great Depression by starting new parks not closing them…..

    Comment by Brandon Hamilton — February 26, 2011 @ 5:09 pm

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