As a West Coast angler, I have seen one place after another taken away from the land based angler. Now our fine feathered government officials in Hillsborough County are giving it to us again. Some of these areas are great family picnic areas, kayaking and canoeing spots. Read on.
SAVE OUR PARKS
Due to the 140 million dollar Hillsborough County budget cut, the Hillsborough County Regional Parks are in serious jeopardy of closing. This letter is to update and familiarize the taxpayers of Hillsborough County and the users of the regional parks with what is happening. There are two things to keep in mind. First is that the Hillsborough County Parks, Recreation, and Conservation Department is not the enemy. Second is that without your support some or all of these regional parks may have to close permanently by 2011. At this time the regional parks encompass 16,500 acres and serve 4.9 million guests annually.
Currently there are 109 full-time regional park rangers and managers who maintain and operate the 11 regional parks (14 if you count each Wilderness Park site separately). Under the currently proposed 2010 budget-cut plan, 54 full-time, regional park personnel will be terminated (20 of the 54 positions are already vacant due to a hiring freeze). With only 55 remaining employees, the Parks Department will have no choice but to cut the open hours of the regional parks AND close a minimum of 2 days per week. This will only allow them to skim by and just mow grass, service bathrooms and other fundamentals; maintaining boardwalks, trails, pavilions, nature centers, and other key park facilities will come to a halt. The new budget takes effect October 1, however it looks like the personnel cuts and park closings will go into effect either NEXT MONTH (July) or certainly by August 2009.
Further, the 2011 proposed budget will force the Parks Department to cut an additional 35 full-time, regional parks' personnel leaving only 20 people to maintain 14 parks. At that time (October 2011), the Parks Department will have no choice but to close some or all the regional parks permanently. They will not have enough personnel to handle even the basic mowing let alone cleaning the bathrooms and opening and closing the gates.
Hillsborough County's Regional Parks are literally some of the finest parks in the United States. They are always clean and always maintained to impeccable standards. As a result, the regional parks have been featured all over the world and have become a major player in the tourism and economy of the Tampa area. Not to mention they are also popular destinations for local outdoor enthusiasts to hike, bike, fish, boat, canoe, kayak, picnic, horseback ride, swim, etc. This will all be lost if YOU do not get involved!
The Hillsborough County Regional Parks in jeopardy of closing are as follows:
The Wilderness Park –
• Dead River, Sargeant's, Morris Bridge, and Trout Creek Parks - Eliminating access to the upper Hillsborough River, a Florida Paddling Trail and a Florida Birding Trail.
Flatwoods Park & Morris Bridge Cycling Area - Eliminating cycling access.
• Veterans Park - Eliminating access to the War Memorial and the bypass canal.
• Jefferson and Oak Ridge Equestrian Areas - Eliminating equestrian access.
Alderman's Ford and Lithia Springs Parks - Eliminating access to the upper Alafia River, a state paddling trail and a great swimming hole.
E.G. Simmons and Upper Tampa Bay Parks, - Eliminating key access points to Tampa Bay for canoeing, kayaking, fishing, boating, et cetera.
Lake Park, Lettuce Lake Park, Edward Medard Park, Lake Rogers Park, Eureka Springs Park, and Upper Tampa Bay Trail - Other key regional parks with great family, park, and trail recreation venues.
There are two ways to help save the regional parks. The easy way is to start by sending an email to your (and/or all the) county commissioner(s) stating how much you love and use the parks and that cutting park staff is unacceptable (email address below). Second is to show up at the County Center and attend the county budget workshops and even more importantly the upcoming county commission meetings (schedule below). At the commission meetings you can sign up to publicly voice your opinion to the commissioners. We need as many people as possible to come to the July 16th commission meeting. This will be our biggest and best effort.
The Parks Department has done a wonderful job maintaining our public lands for us to enjoy. Let's now come together as users and help them not only keep their jobs but keep our parks open.
Commission meetings are where we really need your support! We need those that love the regional parks to not only speak but also be there to cheer on those that are speaking on behalf of the regional parks. For far too long our parks have been looked at as some of the easiest programs to cut. It is time for our commissioners to look elsewhere for their budget cuts and we need to let them know how we feel.
Remaining Budget Public Hearings (all starting at 6 p.m.): County Center, Commission Boardroom, 2nd floor, 601 E. Kennedy Blvd., Tampa.
Thursday, July 16, 2009 (PLEASE ATTEND & SPEAK FOR THE PARKS!)
September 8, 2009
September 17, 2009 (Budget adoption)
The public hearings for the proposed budget will be interactive, and allow residents to call in or email questions and comments during the meetings. In addition to attending in person, residents will be able to watch the meeting live on Hillsborough Television (HTV) on Bright House channel 622 or Verizon and Comcast channel 22 or on the County's website at: http://www.hillsboroughcounty.org
through live streaming video. Viewers then will be able to submit questions or comments to a special email address: email@example.com
; by using an online budget email form on the County's website; or with a special phone number: (813) 307-8337. The comments and questions will be relayed to the County Commissioners during the hearings and answered or read out loud as time allows. All comments will be reviewed by Commissioners.
Remaining Budget Workshops (all starting at 1:30 p.m.) County Center, 2nd Floor Boardroom:
June 18, 2009
July 16, 2009
July 22, 2009
July 29, 2009 (if needed)
July 31, 2009 - Budget Reconciliation
Commissioners may be emailed through the county's website as follows.http://www.hillsboroughcounty.org/bocc/ ... ctusd1.cfm
District 1 Rose Ferlita (813)272-5470
District 2 Ken Hagan (813)272-5452
District 3 Kevin White (813)272-5720
District 4 Al Higginbotham (813)272-5740
District 5/At-Large Jim Norman (813)272-5725
District 6/At-Large Kevin Beckner (813)272-5730
District 7/At-Large Mark Sharpe (813)272-5735