Florida ARVC Opposing State Park Proposal
The following is an article authored by Steve Bibler, appearing on the Woodall’s Campground Management website, offering a response from Florida ARVC on allowing private entities to own and operate campgrounds in state parks.
The Florida Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (Florida ARVC) opposes a proposal by the Sunshine State to let private developers build and operate RV parks and campgrounds in state parks that presently do not offer these facilities.
In an hour-long conference call with 13 board members and officers on Thursday (June 23), the 380-member association unanimously agreed to go on record against the plan, Bobby Cornwell, Florida ARVC executive director, told Woodall’s Campground Management.
Cornwell is scheduled to meet with Florida State Park Director Donald Forgione Tuesday morning to express the association’s concerns with the plan.
Florida ARVC members feel that the state plan will hurt existing private campgrounds located near the state parks where as many as 56 new campgrounds could be created. However, the association is somewhat resigned to the fact that the plan will likely go forward.
“We do oppose the idea. However, we hope to make some inroads with the process, be part of the process and minimize whatever negative effects it could have on the private camping industry,” he said.
The association will have some input as the plan evolves, as Cornwell has been appointed to sit on the statewide advisory council overseeing the project.
“Is there a need for this? Absolutely no,” said Cornwell. “The state parks say ‘yes’ because those parks with camping have a high occupancy. It’s probably their only profitable venture. From the private campground industry standpoint, we do not see the need whatsoever. A lot of private parks that are near state parks with campgrounds are already operating below capacity.”
The association sees the state venture as a further effort to attract some of the tourism dollars spent by the 5 million campers (half of them from out-of-state) who camp annually in the Sunshine State.
The 53 state parks that do allow camping offer 3,501 family campsites, and they are usually booked solid. More than 2 million people camped in state parks last year, generating more than $15.5 million for the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) — but the state wants to boost those revenues even higher.
The move will make the private campground business in Florida, which Cornwell described as “healthy but tough,” less healthy and tougher.
Cornwell questions whether the state proposal will attract meaningful investment. After all, the land beneath the parks will remain state-owned, so what investor is going to pour millions into a campground he won’t totally own, Cornwell asks. “I don’t think it will be that appealing a proposition.”
As it now stands, each proposal for a new campground in an existing state park will have to undergo a public hearing at a locale near the proposed building site. Comments from that hearing will go to the advisory council, which will forward its findings to the Acquisiiton and Restoration Council (ARC). ARC sends its report to the state parks director for a final decision.