Office of Governor Rick Scott
State of Florida
400 S. Monroe St.
Tallahassee, FL 32399-0001
7 February 2011
Dear Governor Rick Scott,
I recently read in the Orlando Sentinel (online) that “Fifty-three state parks, including three in Martin and St Lucie counties, could be closed” in response to your plans for cutting the state budget. I know the state is facing a lot of financial turmoil, but I urge you to reconsider where these budget cuts will be taken from.
My favorite places in Tallahassee are parks. I’ve lived here for seven and a half years, and I’ve had the opportunity to explore many of the parks around here, from the enormous places — Tom Brown Park and Maclay Gardens — to the tucked away places — Lafayette Park, Winthrop Park. I assume these are not among the state parks targeted for cuts, but their presence in the city has been invigorating for me and I assume that other Florida state parks are equally invigorating to the Floridians who frequent them. I can still remember the feeling I had when I got out of my car after driving down to Ochlockonee River State Park to visit it for the first time. I was surprised, utterly taken aback, by the silence of the place. There were no car sounds to be heard, and no one else was at that park on that Saturday afternoon. But as my fiancée and I stepped out of the car, we were rendered breathless by the awesome power of nature. This quaint anecdote goes to show (to me at least, hopefully to you as well) that even if it is only a few people who visit a park in a given year, that park can still have a great impact on the local culture, on society’s psyche.
These days we are battered nonstop by technologies that bring us further from nature. I have a cell phone and iPod that beep at me daily with dozens messages. I am glued to a computer screen at my job for 40 hours a week. However, in the evenings and on the weekends, I am able to experience a complete detachment from hyper-civilization by walking through these parks, these places of natural beauty. As the Florida State Parks website says, “More than eight centuries ago, Native Americans inhabited the area around Lake Jackson, just north of Tallahassee,” and, on the weekends, I can go there and see the same things they did — see their burial mounds and experience much of the same natural settings that they did. That, to me, is more amazing than our technology. Preservation is important to us as a way for people to understand their place on the planet, and city, state, and national parks contribute to this process in an irreplaceable way.
Upon reading this news of proposed park closures, I wondered whether these spaces would eventually be opened to commercial development. This would be one of the worst ideas. Before Tallahassee, I lived in Melbourne, FL from 1990–2003, and I witnessed a great amount of natural landscapes there torn down and paved over to make way for strip malls. These were areas that weren’t protected as parks. Dirt paths in woods that I would bicycle through where I can now purchase eyeglasses and medical supplies.
So I have a simple request. I respectfully request that you and your administration visit every single state park on the budget’s chopping block. And get out of the car. And walk around. And take note of the wildlife. And breathe the air (free of exhaust fumes). And feel the breeze. And hear the cicadas. And see the children having a birthday party. And then imagine it all being turned into a McDonald’s.
Justin de la Cruz, M.A., B.S., B.A.
Florida State University Administrative Support Assistant, Department of History
Florida State University Graduate Student, School of Library & Information Studies