POLL: State parks entrance fees go up on July 1

Will the increase in state park entrance fees stop you from visiting area parks?

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Koreshan State Historic Site

3800 Corkscrew Road, Estero, FL

Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park

11135 Gulf Shore Drive North, Naples

Collier-Seminole State Park

17 miles south of Naples on U.S. 41 East, Naples

Lovers Key State Park

8700 Estero Blvd., Fort Myers Beach, FL

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.

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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.

New Fees

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

© 2009 Naples Daily News. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Comments » 19

neapolitan12345 writes:

published 6/15 but rates don't go up until 7/1, the title shouldn't include the word NOW unless it was published on/after 7/1... proper title should be "Entrance fees to increase at state parks on 7/1, Lovers Key will be $8, Wiggins $6"

nativeone (Inactive) writes:

Your kicking a dead horse neapolitan.

To locals: If you frequent these parks for fishing and/or camping, the annual pass is the way to go. You get a universal gate code giving you park access after hours so your fishing is not hindered by the Ranger Station hours. Since I visit one about once a week, mine has paid for itself in the fist few months, plus flexibility to arrive in the early morning hours is a huge plus. Just my 2 cents.

Flaget writes:

Renewed my pass this morning and was told of price increase by ranger. She also mentioned there would be an additional $25.00 fee for use of boat ramp. So the pass I just purchased for $85.80 for 24 hour access and boat ramp use(included taxes and lamination of pass) will cost me $145.00 (plus taxes and lamination)next year. If my math is correct that is approximately a 71% increase. Doesn't quite match my 2% raise in salary this year. lol

Carrot_Stick writes:

Wow Flaget....you got a 2% raise this year!!! My 'raise' and 'cost of living adjustment' this year was a simple notice saying my job was not going to be terminated.

So nativeone, with an annual pass you get a gate code that works at any park in the state, and you get 24 hour access? That sounds like a great deal for frequent users.

Where can you purchase such passes?

Floridian52 writes:

Not every park has 24 hour access check with your local Florida State Park first.

KR writes:

For all you tree hugging liberals...how do you like that change? Hows that working for ya? Just another hidden tax!

almostdone writes:

Well..what with wages going up and the economy in such good shape. Sheeee Gotta be Democrats running the show.

rtsspeaks writes:

Will the money be put into the General Fund for the politicians to spend or will the money be spent for the parks????

nativeone (Inactive) writes:

I see the children are out of school. 7,8,9.

nplsparentof2 writes:

$6 to park at Wiggins or free at county beaches...

Maybe they won't need that parking garage after all.

swfl_ff writes:

Thanks for the nice picture Big Dog. It was indeed free back in those days and not a high rise in sight.

wes writes:

I wish they'd just stop with all the "improvements". Can we pay extra to get them to put the so called amenities elswhere and leave or enhance the natural aspect more?
Forget the pavilions or major bridges and concessions and rentals and just minimize the infrasructure, What next? restaurant? more rangers residences? We already have plenty of that stuff around outside the park.

PHINFAN writes:

I have a problem paying for the use of things that We the Public own, it is time to start saying no!! Who owns the government? Yeah, We the People

Max_Headroom writes:

It won't matter how much they raise it, I have been Naples since '92 and haven't been to a state park yet.

Bramble writes:

Thanks to politicians who could not cut back on spending so they raised taxes and fees on Joe and Joesephine average. Big corporations got not only a free pass, but extra taxpayer cash in their pockets!

Remember that Grady and Richter and Crist were the ones who did this.

36yrSemiNative writes:

They couldn't pay me $100 to spend a weekend at Collier-Seminole State Park. Mosquitoes that will suck you dry, temperatures averaging 95 degrees, no breeze. The kayak rental is very exciting because if you screw up and capsize the gators and snakes will make short work of you. The walking dredge is cool. After that, more of the mosquitoes, etc. Bring plenty of beer and at least three big box fans, and a sense of humor.

wes writes:

Yes, as I always say- the mosquito is your friend....

Summer is the best time to visit Collier Seminole. During the winter it's just a cheap motel for the yankees and Miami weekenders visiting Marco. Crowded and noisy.

Parks like Cayo Costa are horrible places to visit as well. And most people should stay well away from the 10,000 islands area; way too dangerous especially if using a power boat or PWC. ESPECIALLY a PWC. And Cape Romano? Practically overrun with dangerous reptiles.
My advice to those seeking casual comfort is stay on the couch and watch TV at home in the A/C and save that generator. Forget about any of the parks around here.

nativeone (Inactive) writes:

I launch my boat from Seminole almost every weekend. Some of the best backwater fishing spots around, and never a soul in sight.

fudge writes:

wes I totally agree. That Cayo Costa place is just Horrible. And they should also stay away from the North end of Keywadin Island. If they do venture out of their airconditioned houses stick to the south end as the reptiles are the north end are just as vicious as Cape Ramono!!!!! We were at the north end today and it was just scary. Stay away!!!!!

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