Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Proposal to put privately run campgrounds in Florida state parks draws opposition

Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, is particularly concerned about a proposal to put in a recreational vehicle camp on Honeymoon Island.


Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, is particularly concerned about a proposal to put in a recreational vehicle camp on Honeymoon Island.

A controversial proposal to let private contractors build and operate campgrounds at Florida state parks, including allowing recreational vehicles at Honeymoon Island State Park in Dunedin, is drawing fire from fresh quarters this week.

State Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, sent letters Tuesday to both Gov. Rick Scott and Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Herschel Vinyard expressing his "adamant opposition."

And officials from the Florida Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds met with the head of the Florida Park Service to share their concerns. The 380-member association is also opposed to the DEP's plan.

"It's something we oppose because of the negative effects it could have on private businesses," said Bobby Cornwell, the association's executive director.

A lot of privately owned RV campgrounds are near state parks, Cornwell explained, and because of the economy, demand is down. Putting new campgrounds, including spaces for RVs, into those state parks will hurt those private campgrounds, he said.

"The camping facilities are not needed," he said. "We don't need the state stepping in where they don't belong."

Critics of the Honeymoon Island plan are already organizing a large turnout for Tuesday's public hearing — so large, in fact, that Dunedin city officials announced Tuesday that it's moving from the Dunedin Public Library across the street to the much larger Hale Senior Center at 330 Douglas Ave. The hearing is slated to start at 7 p.m.

Fasano, in his letters to the governor and DEP secretary, called for halting the DEP park plan until the Legislature can study the proposal. He contended that "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."

DEP Deputy Secretary Bob Ballard wrote Fasano back late Tuesday to say that the agency routinely contracts for other services such as food concessions at the state parks, with no problems, and this would be no different.

"Rest assured that any new enterprises within Florida's state parks will adhere to the award-winning core practices that Florida state parks have been recognized for, including high-quality visitor services and unwavering protection of Florida's natural and cultural resources," Ballard wrote.

Honeymoon Island, which could get up to 45 campsites on 17.5 acres east of the southern beach parking lot, is one of 56 state parks where DEP officials say they may allow private companies to build new campsites.

About two-thirds of Florida's 160 award-winning state parks have no camping. The 53 state parks that do allow camping offer 3,501 family campsites, and they are usually booked solid, according to the DEP. More than 2 million people camped in state parks last year, generating more than $15.5 million for the DEP — but the state wants to boost that revenue even higher.

Such groups as Audubon of Florida and the Florida Native Plant Society have already criticized the plan, especially the part about turning over the job of designing, building and operating the campgrounds to a private contractor.

Fasano said he too had concerns about that aspect of the plan because private contractors may not care as much about a park as park rangers and biologists do, "especially if their prime goal is to make money running a campground that caters primarily to high-impact camping."

Honeymoon Island is one of four parks from around the state chosen to go first in the experiment. Its nearest neighbors, in the Royal Stewart Arms condominiums, are among those opposing the change. Royal Stewart Arms president Alan Hildenbrand polled the residents and said he "received over 50 negative responses and only one in favor."

Hildenbrand said the residents were concerned about everything from the impact on fire and ambulance services to the diesel fumes from generators — and the loss of a precious resource.

"Honeymoon Island has been preserved for decades but for one governor elected by a narrow margin (not a mandate) it may be lost," he wrote in an e-mail to the Times. "Can it ever be returned to what it is now?"

Craig Pittman can be reached at


What's next

The public hearing on the Honeymoon Island State Park campground proposal has been relocated to accommodate the size of the expected crowd. Now it's scheduled for 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Hale Senior Center, 330 Douglas Ave., Dunedin.

Proposal to put privately run campgrounds in Florida state parks draws opposition 06/28/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, June 28, 2011 8:30pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. What to watch this weekend: Grateful Dead documentary, 'House of Cards' returns Tuesday


    The Grateful Dead: Long Strange Trip

    Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright in Season 5 of House of Cards on Netflix.
  2. Florida TaxWatch calls out $180 million of questionable spending in state budget


    Florida TaxWatch, a Tallahassee thinktank, has released its annual "budget turkey" list that calls on Gov. Rick Scott to veto nearly $180 million in special projects tucked into the budget, mostly in transportation.

    Kurt Wenner, Florida TaxWatch's vice president for research, presents the organization's 2017 turkey list.
  3. U.S. plans first test of ICBM intercept, with North Korea on mind


    WASHINGTON — Preparing for North Korea's growing threat, the Pentagon will try to shoot down an intercontinental-range missile for the first time in a test next week. The goal is to more closely simulate a North Korean ICBM aimed at the U.S. homeland, officials said Friday.

    n this May 21 file photo people watch a TV news program showing a file image of a missile launch conducted by North Korea, at the Seoul Railway Station in Seoul, South Korea. With North Korea's nuclear missile threat in mind, the Pentagon is planning a missile defense test next week that for the first time will target an intercontinental-range missile.
  4. A breakdown of the proposed new state budget by the Florida Association of Counties.
  5. Gradebook podcast: Budgets, pre-k, achievement gap and more


    As classes let out across Florida, school district leaders continue to analyze how they're going to balance their budgets given the constraints proposed by state lawmakers.  Reporter Jeff Solochek and editor Tom Tobin discuss the concerns district finance officials are raising as they look at the budget while …