The Scott administration’s plan to turn portions of some of Florida’s state parks over to private corporations has raised eyebrows across the state and even the country — and, with critics on both sides of the aisle, it has proven to be a bipartisan issue. Tonight, a public hearing on the campsite proposal for Honeymoon Island State Park will be held at a public library in Dunedin.
State Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, initially expressed his opposition to the plan to privatize portions of 56 of Florida’s state parks in a pair of letters dated June 28. “Allowing a for-profit enterprise to run a high-impact campground on such a sensitive and important environmental treasure as Honeymoon Island is a major policy change that needs more review than it has been given,” wrote Fasano in letters to Scott and Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Herschel Vineyard. “The Department’s Acquisition and Restoration Council’s split vote is hardly the authority needed to implement such a change both locally and statewide.”
During an annual meeting of the Florida Press Association and the Florida Society of News Editors in St. Petersburg last week, Scott defended the position. “The reason we have parks is so people will use them,” he said, according to the Palm Beach Post.
Fasano agrees, but says that a lack of visitors simply isn’t a problem for Florida’s state parks.
“Sen. Fasano agrees that state parks should be utilized to their fullest,” says Fasano’s chef legislative aide, Greg Giordano. ”Honeymoon Island, for example, is visited by plenty of tourists and locals every day. … A lack of visitors is not the problem this park faces. However, if the existing picnic facilities and surrounding areas are converted into a high-impact campground, the resulting harm to the environment, sensitive wildlife areas and the overall quality of experience for day visitors can only be negative. If the ultimate goal is to increase traffic into state parks then perhaps a an advertising campaign promoting the park system may be a better use of dollars, rather than opening the door for privatizing a function that is being done quite well by dedicated public employees.”
Fasano will be attending the public hearing tonight to share his concerns with residents and fellow lawmakers alike. According to Giordano, Fasano ”wants to make sure Honeymoon Island remains the pristine treasure that it currently is.”