Southeast Volusia Audubon Society, P.O. Box 46, New Smyrna Beach, FL 32170;

November 2015 Prez Sez

In September, Maureen and I spent three weeks in the Panhandle of Florida exploring parts of the state in which we had not previously spent much time.  We were amazed by the number of state parks there were and we camped in some, visited others and even canoed and fished in some.  And as I pondered the beauty of the area and of the state parks, I could not help but wonder why the elected officials in Tallahassee keep trying to change them into entities that they are not suited to be and were not intended to be when they were purchased and established.

Over the last few years, the Scott administration tried to create golf courses and high end campgrounds in the parks and lately, the new DEP chief mused on making them pay their own way by allowing logging, hunting, and other activities.  All attempts have been met with significant public outrage.  And rightly so.

According to the DEP website, the mission of the State Park service is: “To provide resource-based recreation while preserving, interpreting and restoring natural and cultural resources.”

How do those other activities fit into the mission statement of the Florida State parks?

Now Maureen and I have been to resort state parks in our travels.  And they have been a totally different experience.  They mixed conservation, raptor rescue, fishing and yes, even golf courses.

But they were designed that way.

Take Oak Mountain State Park south of Birmingham, AL.  We took our oldest grandson there for a week a couple of years ago and all he wanted to do was fish and swim.  But we dragged him to the raptor rescue center, the environmental education center and of course we fished and swam. 

But a closer look at the park’s website is very revealing. 

“From its humble beginning as a 940-acre park atop Double Oak Mountain established by the Alabama State Lands Act of 1927, Oak Mountain State Park has grown to 9,940 acres making it Alabama’s largest state park.

Mountain biking and hiking are two of the most popular activities at the park. With more than 50 miles of trails visitors have plenty of options to choose from be it a short loop or an overnight trip.

Other park activities include: Flipside Watersports cable skiing, boat rentals, basketball courts, nature programs, Peavine Falls, Oak Mountain Interpretive Center, 18-hole golf course and driving range, beach and swimming area, fishing lakes, boat rentals, picnic areas, demonstration farm and horseback riding facilities.”

According to the Alabama State Lands Act of 1927, “the goal in acquiring and establishing these first parks was to preserve wild areas and provide recreational opportunities.”

So from a humble 940 acres, it was subsequently increased ten-fold to accommodate the new recreational opportunities of golfing, driving ranges, etc.

But do Flipside watersports, golf courses and driving ranges fit into the mission of Florida state parks to provide “resource-based recreation while preserving, interpreting and restoring natural and cultural resources?”

Probably not.  So do they belong in our state parks?  Maybe.  If the DEP decided which parks are appropriate as hosts and buys the appropriate adjacent lands to accommodate them. 

Otherwise, stick to the mission as stated.

Happy Birding