Will Egmont Key lose its state park designation? listen12/22/08 Seán Kinane
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Egmont Key State Park is a one-square-mile island located at the mouth of Tampa Bay, offshore of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge and Ft. DeSoto. Because of Florida's budget shortfalls, the state parks department is considering saving $140,000 by cutting funding for the rangers who run the Egmont Key State Park.
But environmental activists, including Lorraine Margeson, want it to remain a state park. Margeson said royal terns can nest on Egmont Key because half of the island is a sanctuary and also because there is a ranger on the island 24 hours per day. But, if the state cuts funding to the park, boaters will no longer be deterred from disturbing natural habitat and wildlife, Margeson said.
Egmont Key lies within the boundaries of Hillsborough County. Last Thursday, the Environmental Protection Commission (EPC) of Hillsborough voted unanimously to write a letter to Gov. Charlie Crist requesting that he maintain funding for Egmont Key State Park.
EPC executive director Rick Garrity said 180,000 visitors to Egmont Key pump $8 million into the region’s economy every year.
EPC board member and Hillsborough County Commissioner Jim Norman asked if it would be possible for the county to purchase and maintain the island through the Environmental Lands Acquisition and Protection Program (ELAPP).
The ELAPP committee will study Norman’s request. The EPC voted unanimously to send a letter to the governor to keep Egmont Key as a state park.