Friday, March 11, 2011

Open Letter: Bill for Golf Courses in State Parks Must Be Killed

Guest post, by Bill Stokes, supported by Sierra Club Florida:

Honorable Senator Thrasher and Representative Rooney,

     The proposal to put golf courses in State Parks must be killed in the cradle before this preposterous idea gathers any momentum. [Bill reference: S 1846 Jack Nicklaus Golf Trail]

BREAKING NEWS 4:38pm Friday 11-March: 

Legislators withdraw bills that would put golf courses in state parks

     Florida State Parks are public, natural spaces to avoid active and invasive recreation that alters the natural habitat and landscape.  Florida is amongst the nation's leading states in the number of golf courses servicing a sport that is steadily dying.  There are many golf courses in the state struggling to survive.  This would be folly to debase a State Park system that is renowned as one of the best in the nation because of the unspoiled natural crown jewels your predecessors  and other visionary citizens elected to save, conserve and preserve in their natural state, unspoiled by an intrusion such as this.

     The thousands upon thousands of park users are there to enjoy a natural environment unknown in the confines of a golf course.  Is it any wonder why the Florida State Park system is known as "The Real Florida"?  "The Real Florida" must remain as such and not join the multitude of manicured, developed land that is more than adequate for the present demand.  The patrons of State Parks are largely there to avoid the other world of developed, active recreation that has altered the land and robbed it of much of its original character.

     Please listen to the statewide conservation groups and State Park entities that can furnish you with a litany of reasons why this pursuit would be extremely detrimental to the land and people who use it.  There are no significant benefits of furnishing  recreational opportunities that are not already available in excess.  This type development is also one of the many culprits of polluting run off that has decimated the quality of our state's water supply.

     Some concerns that should preclude this project because of the troubling issues are as follows:
  1. Does not recognize existing uses and users including the natural environment.
  2. Does not provide any benefit for existing uses and users including the natural environment.
  3. Does not provide intent that the proposal will benefit the park system or other users.
  4. Does not provide any real limitation on where golf courses can be located and takes the decision completely out of the hands of decision-makers giving all power of decision to the golf course developer.
  5. Does not provide for any protection of park resources or the other users.
  6. Waives all state park planning and management processes.
  7. Waives all local government planning processes.
  8. Appears to waive public participation in decision making.
  9. Preempts environmental rules including water and wildlife rules.
  10. Does not provide that any funds benefit the park.
  11. Allows for hotels, presumably to be built on state lands.
     Please table this ill conceived proposal and do everything in your power to conserve the crown jewels of Florida by properly funding them in lieu of invading them with plans that are in direct opposition to their intended purpose of recreation in an unspoiled and natural setting.

     Thank you for your consideration.

Bill Stokes
St. Petersburg
Founder, Alliance for a Livable Pinellas