3800 Corkscrew Road, Estero, FL
11135 Gulf Shore Drive North, Naples
17 miles south of Naples on U.S. 41 East, Naples
8700 Estero Blvd., Fort Myers Beach, FL
TALLAHASSEE — Update:
The new park entrance fees are expected to raise approximately $7.2 million, Park Service spokeswoman Jessica Kemper wrote in an e-mail late Monday.
She wrote that all state park revenue, including entrance fees, are deposited into one system-wide account, the state park trust fund. Individual parks will not keep revenues from their park for new projects, she wrote.
Enjoying the Great Outdoors at one of Southwest Florida’s state parks is about to get pricier.
The Florida Park Service announced Monday that entrance fees, starting July 1, will increase between $1 and $3 to cover increasing costs of keeping the state’s 160 parks open.
Almost half of the $81 million Florida spends to operate its parks comes from entrance and usage fees, such as camping or canoe and kayak rentals.
The fee increase is the first fee change for the Florida Park Service in five years, according to the park service.
In a statement Monday, Park Service Director Mike Bullock said the fees still are affordable.
The largest fee increase, from $5 to $8, will hit Lovers Key State Park in Bonita Springs. That park attracts more than 800,000 visitors per year, according to the park’s figures.
Some visitors to the park Monday were not happy to hear about the $3 increase.
“I don’t understand why they need to raise the prices. It seems a bit excessive,” said David Kavanagh, a Cape Coral resident. “If it continues to go up, it might affect how often I visit the parks.”
“That’s a bummer,” said Sue Bowers, a Dallas resident who frequently visits Southwest Florida. “.... We might not plan to come here just for the sunset but plan a long day if we had to pay too much more.”
Her husband Marc Bowers, however, didn’t have a problem with the increase.
“I think it’s fine,” Marc Bowers said. “As long as they are using it to make improvements, that’s fine with me.”
The president of Friends of Lovers Key State Park, a nonprofit support group for the park, called the jump a “reasonable increase.”
“Everyone thinks it’s a super park and a great value for the money,” President Don Brown said.
“There’s just not a lot of money to do the things that need to be done there,” he said.
Other Southwest Florida state parks that will charge increased fees starting July 1 are Collier-Seminole State Park and Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park in Collier County and Koreshan State Historic Site in Estero.
The fees apply to vehicles with up to eight people. A $3 fee applies to vehicles with just a driver, according to the Park Service Web site.
The fee increases were determined by the number of visitors that visit each park every year, Florida Park Service spokeswoman Jessica Kemper said.
Parks with fewer than 125,000 visitors will see increases from $4 to $5, including Collier-Seminole and the Koreshan historic site.
An increase from $5 to $6 will apply to parks, such as Delnor-Wiggins, with between 125,000 and 500,000 visitors.
Delnor-Wiggins park saw its visitor numbers drop below 500,000 after Collier County opened its parking garage at Vanderbilt Beach, but the numbers are back around the half-million mark, park manager Robert Steiger said.
Parks with more than 500,000 visitors will see their fees increase from $5 to $8, according to the new park service fee schedule.
“The more people, the more it costs to operate,” Kemper said.
The Florida Park Service’s annual operating budget was $79.7 million in budget year 2007-08 and $78 million in 2008-09.
The $81.1 million budget the state Legislature approved for next budget year reflects the higher fees, Kemper said.
The Florida Park Service counted a record-breaking 20.7 million visitors in 2007-08 and is on track to break that record this year, Kemper said.
Park visitors contribute more than $1 billion to Florida’s economy and create more than 20,000 jobs, according to the park service.
“I think it’s better to raise the fee than to put up another building to make money like a gift shop or cabins or something,” said Judy Bikos of Longwood. “As long as they are doing it to preserve the land.”
Staff writer Whitney Bryen contributed to this report.
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection is raising entrance fees and camping fees at state parks. The fees apply to vehicles with up to eight people. Where applicable, camping fees are increasing by an average of $4 per night; cabin rental fees are increasing by an average of $10 per night.
Park - Current fee - New fee
Collier Seminole State Park - $4 - $5
Korehan State Historic Site - $4 - $5
Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park - $5 - $6
Lovers Key State Park - $5 - $8
There are no fees at Charlotte Harbor Preserve State Park, Estero Bay Preserve State Park, Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park or Mound Key Archaeological State Park