Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Pinellas County once again eyes $5 fee for Fort De Soto, Fred Howard parks

CLEARWATER — Visitors curdle at unkempt trash at Fort De Soto Park. Volunteers struggle to shoulder the chores of a thinned maintenance staff. Bolts for repairs haven't been properly stocked for years.

Enough is enough, park supporters told Pinellas County commissioners Thursday.

At their urging, commissioners revived a plan to charge $5 a vehicle at nationally known Fort De Soto Park in south Pinellas and the same fee to park at the beach at Fred Howard Park in Tarpon Springs.

"We've got to touch the third rail; it's time to start looking at a fee structure at Fort De Soto," said Matt Gaspar, vice president of Friends of Fort De Soto.

Citing maintenance worries, a majority of commissioners informally supported the fees at the work session: Susan Latvala, John Morroni, Karen Seel and Ken Welch.

Seel said her support stops short of building a county tollbooth at Fort De Soto because a state tollbooth is already there. She and Commissioner Neil Brickfield oppose back-to-back stops.

County officials warned that installing meters for the park's 3,000 spaces would be inefficient. Plus, people tend to park along the road.

The debate was one example why proposals for park fees collapsed the past two years.

Besides hearing outcries over new fees, commissioners recoiled at the cost of collecting fees, and how many parks should be included.

However, the idea has new life with another year of budget cuts and limited staff.

"We're at the bottom of minimum," County Administrator Bob LaSala said.

Diminishing staff has left the parks staff unable to restore landscaping lost in winter freezes. Park rangers are spread thin. Mowing is only done every three weeks.

"Try mowing your lawn for three weeks and see how it looks," said Paul Cozzie, director of parks and conservation resources.

Revenue from camping and other activities has increased $700,000 since 2005 at Fort De Soto. But spending has been cut $1.5 million. There are four maintenance workers now, compared to 48 in 2005.

By adding the fees, the county estimates $2.5 million could be raised a year — money that supporters want to stay in the parks budget, either specifically for the two parks or all sites.

Parks advocates, representing groups such as Audubon, hope charging fees at only the beach parks popular with tourists will help their cause. Other county beaches already charge parking fees, and the state charges $8 a car at Honeymoon Island.

"It's absolutely time to start charging an access fee for Fort De Soto, Fred Howard and other parks that are being subsidized for free," said Dave Kandz, a St. Petersburg Audubon member.

Besides a daily fee, the county staff also favors an annual pass of $75. The entrance fee would be reduced or eliminated for low-income visitors.

Friends of Fort De Soto also sweetened the proposal with an offer to buy 500 passes for people who agree to volunteer 10 hours of work.

David DeCamp can be reached at ddecamp@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8779. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/decamptimes.

.Fast facts

Revenue up, spending down

20052011
Revenue (camping fees, concessions)$1.9 million$2.6 million
Spending$4.8 million$3.3 million
Staff8136

Source: Pinellas County

Pinellas County once again eyes $5 fee for Fort De Soto, Fred Howard parks 04/07/11 [Last modified: Thursday, April 7, 2011 11:02pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Video: Rays Souza on that oh-so-bad dive, and reaction from Twins fans

    Blogs

    What was Rays RF Steven Souza Jr. thinking when he made that oh-so-bad dive for a ball in the seventh inning Friday? Well, we'll let him tell you ...

  2. What was Rays RF Steven Souza Jr. thinking on that comically bad dive?

    Blogs

    What could Rays RF Steven Souza Jr. been thinking in the seventh inning Friday when he dove for a ball and came up yards short?

    Actually, he insisted after all the laughing, teasing and standing ovation from the Twins fans was done, it was a matter of self-preservation.

  3. Judge tosses life sentences for D.C. sniper Lee Boyd Malvo

    Nation

    McLEAN, Va. — A federal judge on Friday tossed out two life sentences for one of Virginia's most notorious criminals, sniper Lee Boyd Malvo, and ordered Virginia courts to hold new sentencing hearings.

    A federal judge has tossed out two life sentences for D.C. sniper shooter Lee Boyd Malvo. [Associated Press, 2004]
  4. Zbigniew Brzezinski, President Carter's national security adviser, dies

    News

    Zbigniew Brzezinski, the hawkish strategic theorist who was national security adviser to President Jimmy Carter in the tumultuous years of the Iran hostage crisis and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in the late 1970s, died on Friday at a hospital in Virginia. He was 89.

    Zbigniew Brzezinski, former national security adviser to President Jimmy Carter, participates in Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Capitol Hill on March 5, 2009, in Washington, D.C. [Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images]
  5. USF eliminated by UCF in AAC baseball; Florida, FSU, Miami win

    Colleges

    CLEARWATER — Roughly 16 hours after a ninth-inning collapse against East Carolina in the American Athletic Conference's double-elimination baseball tournament, USF returned to Spectrum Field presumably set for a reboot.

    It simply got booted instead.

    ’NOLES win: Tyler Holton gets a hug from Drew Carlton after his strong eight innings help Florida State beat Louisville.