Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Marine Park Has New Plan Trust Targets Ecotourism

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Marine Park Has New Plan Trust Targets Ecotourism

Article excerpt

After decades of declining revenues, Florida's oldest marine

park is hoping the latest tourism trend, "ecotourism," will be

enough to keep the park afloat.

The non-profit Trust for Public Land, which is planning to

purchase the bankrupt Marineland Ocean Resort, believes it can

use the area's natural resources to turn the rundown vacation

destination into a mecca for ecotourists.

But some tourism experts question whether ecotourism -- a

vacation concept that features nature as the central attraction

-- will be enough to save the park.

"They're making a bold move," said Orlando economist and

tourism expert Hank Fishkind. "The odds are against them."

Fishkind said that other Florida ecotourism destinations such

as the Keys and the Everglades have enjoyed booming success in

recent years.

But he's not sure the formula will work for North Florida

because it lacks a starring attraction.

"Marineland's not the Everglades," Fishkind said. "But if they

do it right and promote it . . . could they get enough business

to make it work? Sure."

Without a big-draw attraction, Fishkind said Marineland isn't

likely to receive many spinoff visitors from tourist-saturated

Orlando.

That's OK with Marineland Foundation board member Carol Wright.

She said she envisions creating a "real" vacation resort to

contrast the "plastic" amusement parks elsewhere in Florida.

Wright believes there are many reasons Marineland can become a

destination resort of its own.

To begin with, the 140-acre site is situated in a unique

river-to-sea location.

This arrangement allows visitors to canoe in the Matanzas River

one day and spend next day swimming with dolphins.

The area also is largely undeveloped -- a rarity in Florida,

said Trust project director Kevin Mooney. …

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