Hunting at Honeymoon Island? Latvala says hunt for somewhere else to do it
The idea that hunters could someday be stalking the sugar-white sands of Honeymoon Island State Park gives Sen. Jack Latvala pause.
After reading a Tampa Bay Times story that reported that all of the state parks are now being reviewed as potential places to add hunting, Latvala fired off a letter to state Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Jon Steverson that said: Hunt for some other place to allow hunting.
"Within rilfe range of the park are a condominium complex for retirees, boaters and beachgoers," Latvala wrote. "Honeymoon Island has won awards for being the best beach in the country...Tourists do not visit beaches in Florida to go hunting. This would be a disaster waiting to happen."
Latvala, who will take over as Senate appropriations chair in 2016, vowed to review the DEP park plans as part of the next session to "explore...the mission of our state parks.".
"We have received Sen. Latvala's letter, and Secretary Steverson has spoken to him to assure him that we are not going to, nor did we ever have plans to, pursue hunting at Honeymoon Island State Park," DEP Communications Director Lauren Engel said in a statement e-mailed to the Times late Tuesday. "We in no way have mandated that hunting will be allowed in all parks."
State park planners were instructed about a month ago to review all state parks with a checklist that lists potential activities -- includijg hunting. Engel said last week that the checlist is only for "identifying potential activities for each park, and that none of the activities are required at this point. Special hunts, like those organized by nonprofits like Wounded Warriors in Action, might be considered by the DEP "in appropriate locations,"
Steverson, who was appointed to his post by Gov. Rick Scott in December, has said he wants the award-winning park system to start paying for itself, and the way to do that is starting adding activities that previously had been banned in the parks, such as cattle grazing and timber harvesting. He has never mentioned hunting, but his staff included that in a planning document obtained by the Times earlier this year.