Earlier this month, the division won approval, 7-2, from DEP’s Acquisition and Restoration Council, a little-noticed advisory group, to expedite the planning process to create more private concessions at the 56 state parks. But this is more than privatizing snack bars, canoe rentals or gift shops. It’s about turning over portions of state parks to private enterprises to build and run campgrounds, often in environmentally sensitive locations that are already being heavily utilized by day visitors. #

According to the Department of Environmental Protection‚Äôs press officer, Dee Ann Miller, an effort to increase campsites statewide is in the works, but it‚Äôs ‚Äútoo soon‚ÄĚ to discuss logistics. #

At this time it is simply too soon to talk about any possible logistics of how camping could be expanded in state parks in the future and what it would look like. This is an idea from Florida Park Service leaders to continue to provide Florida’s citizens and visitors high-quality camping opportunities, as it is by far one of our most popular activities. There are multiple campgrounds, particularly those in South Florida, that are reserved year-round and many of the 53 state parks that offer campgrounds are booked every weekend. With the cost of constructing campgrounds in the millions of dollars, the Florida Park Service will ensure all avenues to expand camping are investigated, including private construction and operation. However, this is no reflection on current operations nor is it a trial for possible privatization of current camping facilities at state parks. #

Miller cites a Florida statute ‚ÄĒ¬†Chapter 258.007 (3) ‚ÄĒ that gives the Division of Recreation and Parks the power to ‚Äúgrant concessions for the use of land for the accommodation of visitors.‚ÄĚ She says the division first began working with the private sector about 50 years ago, and that today, ‚Äúnearly 100 private vendors operate within state parks.‚ÄĚ #

The Department of Environmental Protection‚Äôs Division of Recreation and Parks will host public meetings on Tues., July 5, and Wed., July 6, at locations throughout the state, to address the potential for adding family camping at De Leon Springs, Edward Ball Wakulla Springs, Fanning Springs and Honeymoon Island state parks. ‚ÄúThese public meetings are only the first step in examining the potential for increasing family camping opportunities and amending the park unit management plans,‚ÄĚ Miller writes. #

Below, a full list of the ‚ÄúState Parks with Potential for Providing New Family Camping Areas‚ÄĚ: #

1.      Alfred B. Maclay Gardens State Park #

Correction: #

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