WTVY  | Dothan, AL  | Politics, News

Fla. State Parks Going Corporate?

It's been nearly a year since a drive was launched to partially privatize some of Florida's state parks. It ultimately failed, thanks to a wave of public outrage.

Now state leaders are taking a different approach, allowing companies to slap their logos on state park signs in return for some badly-needed revenue.

The corporate sponsorship bill is set to take effect on July 1, and more than a few people aren't exactly enchanted by the idea of corporate America encroaching on natural Florida.

They mark the end of a fast-paced world and the beginning of tranquility, but soon like everything else in that world you thought you were leaving behind, the signs in Florida's state parks could be auctioned off.

Just imagine the 'Wendy's Woodland Trail' or the 'McDonald's Magnolia Grove'.

For bicyclist Tim Andrus, it runs counter to everything he thinks state parks ought to be.

"People like to be out in the woods to be out in the woods and be away from all the corporate logos and all the stuff that's out there in the world corporate-wise, so it might be a good thing to have places where we can go and get away from these things, all the noise of the cars and everything - that's why we have these trails!"

But the trails are built and maintained by the state, hit hard by the recession and desperately trying to come up with new ways of raising money.

Five years ago, opening Florida's parks to corporate sponsorships was unimaginable, but Rob Weissert with Florida TaxWatch points out today many of those parks are in danger of closing.

"We do need to realize that the services we provide are a benefit to people, and we want to be able to provide those and continue to make our state the best that it can be, but we've got to be able to do that in a fiscally responsible way."

Which, in this case, could mean asking wall street to take a different kind of hike along the trails people like Tim use every day.

We don't yet know exactly which parks will be open to advertising. There had been only a limited list, but lawmakers voted to open it up to any park officials deem eligible. They're working on that plan right now.

Under the new law, 85 percent of the proceeds from the corporate sponsorships will go toward funding state trails. The rest will pay for traffic and bicycle safety programs.


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