Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Forget Golf in Parks. How about Drilling?

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Forget Golf in Parks. How about Drilling?

Article excerpt

Not long ago in Tallahassee, a proposal to turn state parks into golf courses died a quick death as the legislature regained its senses and we all shook our heads at the process that can engender such crazy ideas year after year.

Now, the golf courses don't sound so bad compared with the latest plan for the parks: opening them to oil and gas drilling.

Think of scrub jays perched on oil derricks in Oscar Scherer State Park and you've got the right image. If this is a joke, it's on us.

House Bill 696, sponsored by state Rep. Clay Ford, R-Pensacola, and SB 1158, sponsored by Sen. Greg Evers, R-Baker, have passed through several committees, and apparently have at least a chance of success, if you want to call it that.

The bills would allow the creation of "public/private partnerships" for oil and gas exploration provided the drilling companies persuade the government they can produce short-term windfalls for the state.

In other words, the bills call for the public to sell out its parks and its future for a quick, and in this case dirty, buck.

To place a heavy industrial use in state parks mocks conservation. Parks are born from a desire to provide respite for people, plants and animals from the very type of activities that oil and gas drilling epitomize.

Generally, when the public purchases land for parks, it does so because the land has characteristics that make it an ideal venue for conservation. Often, those qualities can mesh well not only with preservation of species but with recreation and tourism.

Oil and gas exploration is not a good fit for those sites.

If lawmakers want to use our money to buy oil and gas fields, then it would seem more logical to discuss the pros and cons of select locations before a purchase, not as an afterthought when the land has been bought for a diametrically opposed reason. …

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