The Phoenix Flyer

Advocates urge full funding for state parks this year

By: - March 27, 2019 11:26 am
Florida wetlands

Florida wetlands. J Hauserman photo

Advocates for Florida’s state parks, including former gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham, gathered in Tallahassee Wednesday to urge state lawmakers to fully fund parks and the state’s conservation land-buying program, Florida Forever.

Florida Forever used to get $300 million a year, paid for by an already-existing tax on real estate transactions. In recent years, the amount set aside for land-buying has dwindled.

In this year’s budget plans, Gov. Ron DeSantis has proposed $54 million for state parks and $100 million for Florida Forever, but the proposed budgets by the state House and Senate are far below that, advocates say. The Senate has earmarked just $15 million for parks, and the House $45 million. On Florida Forever, the Senate is proposing only $20 million and the the House $45 million, said Julia Gill Woodward, chief executive officer of the Florida State Parks Foundation, an advocacy group that supports parks. Graham is a board member.

The parks are especially in need now, the advocates say, because of multi-million dollar damage from hurricanes, including at least $50 million in rebuilding costs from Hurricane Michael.

“Florida has the finest parks system in the nation, but it’s protection and management isn’t free,” said Jim Stevenson, a retired state environmental official.

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Julie Hauserman
Julie Hauserman

Julie Hauserman has been writing about Florida for more than 30 years. She is a former Capitol bureau reporter for the St. Petersburg (Tampa Bay) Times, and reported for The Stuart News and the Tallahassee Democrat. She was a national commentator for National Public Radio’s Weekend Edition Sunday and The Splendid Table . She has won many awards, including two nominations for the Pulitzer Prize. Her work is featured in several Florida anthologies, including The Wild Heart of Florida , The Book of the Everglades , and Between Two Rivers . Her new book is Drawn to The Deep, a University Press of Florida biography of Florida cave diver and National Geographic explorer Wes Skiles.