By Sylvia Gurinsky
Florida's parks are a success story, drawing visitors in record numbers.
It's easy to see why. Go to the park system's Web site (www.floridastateparks.org) and take a look. The scenery is beautiful. And the price is right, depending on where one wants to go.
But there are storm clouds, and not just from those afternoon showers.
Thanks to the economy, $23 million was chopped from the maintenance budget for state parks, reports Drew Harwell in the St. Petersburg Times:
It's true that things could be worse - as they are in California, where a number of parks are closing for the time being because of that state's budget crisis. But things could also be better.
Considering how much children and teenagers take to indoor technology these days, the success of Florida's parks is all the more surprising - and welcome. But run-down buildings, malfunctioning equipment and non-native vegetation that goes unchecked will threaten that good fortune.
Success stories don't stay that way without proper support. Florida's environment does not get that help from those who govern the state. The park system can fall into the category of things that are taken for granted.
Gov. Charlie Crist should put together a study group of past and present elected officials who can take a close look at the parks and figure out a method of permanent financial support that is both politics-proof and economy-proof.
Florida's parks and its visitors deserve to know that "The Real Florida" is the best Florida.