Mak­ing parks prof­itable

Tampa Bay Times - - Local - BY CRAIG PITTMAN Times Staff Writer

State of­fi­cials seek to al­low tim­ber har­vest­ing at Myakka River as a mon­ey­mak­ing ef­fort.

Two years af­ter of­fi­cials first talked of boost­ing the mon­ey­mak­ing ef­forts of the state park sys­tem, a pair of parks are fi­nally go­ing to try it.

State of­fi­cials have pro­posed al­low­ing tim­ber har­vest­ing in one, Myakka River State Park near Sara­sota. They have pro­posed al­low­ing tim­ber har­vest­ing and cat­tle graz­ing in an­other, Sa­van­nas Pre­serve State Park in Port St. Lucie.

In each case, a draft man­age­ment plan for the park said those mon­ey­mak­ing uses have now been found to be “com­pat­i­ble with the park’s pri­mary pur­pose of re­source-based out­door re­cre­ation and con­ser­va­tion.”

The two parks are slated to hold pub­lic hear­ings on the pro­posed changes this week. The Sa­van­nas Pre­serve hear­ing is tonight, and the Myakka River one is Thurs­day night.

A Flor­ida Depart­ment of En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion spokes­woman said if tim­ber har­vest­ing and cat­tle graz­ing are approved, those ac­tiv­i­ties would oc­cur on only a lim­ited ba­sis.

“The Flor­ida Park Ser­vice is com­mit­ted to pro­tect­ing the lands en­trusted to us and will only con­duct these ac­tiv­i­ties when they are part of a restora­tion or main­te­nance project for the park,” said DEP com­mu­ni­ca­tions di­rec­tor Lau­ren En­gel. “For ex­am­ple, tim­ber man­age­ment for thin­ning or restora­tion pur­poses, veg­e­ta­tion re­moval for ecosys­tem health and fire con­trol, or cat­tle graz­ing in a small over­grown pas­ture to as­sist with con­trol of in­va­sive plant species.”

In ad­di­tion to tim­ber har­vest­ing, the Myakka plan also calls for al­low­ing such com­mer­cial ac­tiv­i­ties as the har­vest­ing of stumps and palm or pal­metto fronds. The Sa­van­nas Pre­serve plan calls for al­low­ing bee­keep­ers to lease park land for their hives and charg­ing de­vel­op­ers to move gopher tor­toises to the park so they can

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