Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Huguenot Camping Stays, City Clarifies; City Hall Deluged with Calls after Park Made Cancellation Calls

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Huguenot Camping Stays, City Clarifies; City Hall Deluged with Calls after Park Made Cancellation Calls

Article excerpt

Byline: Drew Dixon

Although Huguenot Memorial Park patrons were told that overnight camping was finished as of this weekend, Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown's office said Thursday it always intended to keep camping in place at the popular seaside facility.

Chris Hand, Brown's chief of staff, denied the administration cut the camping option from the budget that was approved early Wednesday by the City Council. Hand acknowledged, though, that park employees told visitors that overnight camping would end Saturday and called people with reservations for camp sites to tell them that camping had been eliminated.

"The funds for Huguenot camping were never removed from the budget," said Hand, who did acknowledge the cuts were discussed as a possibility. "Clearly there was some miscommunication on that."

The cuts were still being discussed by city spokesmen as recently as two weeks ago.

Abel Harding, Brown's former director of communications, said in a Sept. 10 Times-Union story that cutting overnight camping was in Brown's proposed budget at that time.

A week later, city spokesman Ben Pennymon said ending overnight camping was "still on the table along with everything else." (Pennymon was among those laid off this week.)

Pam Roman, spokeswoman for the city's Recreation and Community Services, confirmed Thursday there was a directive to Huguenot workers to start informing residents and campers that the overnight camping option was finished. Roman said she did not know who at City Hall gave the directive.

After multiple rounds of wrangling over the spending plan, which takes effect Saturday, eliminating camping at the park was put on the table in hopes of saving $22,000 on the cost of security and facilities upkeep.

Councilman Ray Holt, who holds the district seat that represents the Huguenot area, said he was slammed with complaints from park enthusiasts who were outraged at the prospect of ending camping. …

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