Earlier this month, the Department of Environmental Protection sought permission from the state Acquisition and Restoration Council to pursue an expedited approval process for the development of private campgrounds in as many as 56 Florida State Parks. Over Audubon’s objections and the “no” votes of two Council members, the expedited process was overwhelmingly approved. Now DEP is proceeding with public meetings next week on campground proposals for four state parks.
These quickly assembled proposals would put family campgrounds including large RV developments in these sensitive preserved areas, potentially constructed and operated by the private sector. While public-private partnerships are not necessarily bad for our natural resources and camping helps introduce more people to Florida’s special places, these plans need careful, transparent consideration… and the benefit of your input!
- In these amendments, “carrying capacities” for what use these parks can sustain are based on the number of parking spaces and facilities, not the amount of human use the resources can endure without being degraded.
- Campgrounds will mean more swimmers on the beach and in the springs; expanded hours during which the park must need to be patrolled for public safety and natural resource protection; and require additional resource management to ensure the parks are not degraded. How is the park service assessing these increased expenses and ensuring they are accounted for in these decisions?
- In order for a private vendor to bid accurately and for the resources to be protected appropriately, the park service needs to provide more detailed conditions for these campgrounds than is currently contained in the amendments.
Honeymoon Island is a narrow barrier island designated as an Important Bird Area for its critical importance to threatened beach-dependent birds, neotropical migratory songbirds, nesting sea turtles and more. It already sustains more than one-million day visitors annually. Is the best use for this nature sanctuary really paved pads for RVs?
Fanning, De Leon and Wakulla Springs are all windows to our aquifer surrounded by verdant wildlife habitat. Unfortunately, all three springs are already impaired by nutrients from stormwater run off, fertilizer and septic tanks. Do these proposals adequately consider and provide protections for these springs from the increased use and development of these campgrounds?
Note: These proposals are written as amendments to each park’s existing management plan. You can find the underlying management plans online here: http://www.dep.state.fl.us/parks/planning/plans.htm