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Lawmakers push to make local, state parks more accessible

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – It’s not all fun and games when it comes to local and state park policy in Florida’s Capitol. Some lawmakers want to make them more accessible at a local level, while state officials are trying to figure out how to get state parks to make more money.

The local parks bill has already cleared two House committees unanimously.

Giving veterans, their families, law enforcement personnel and first responders better access to local parks that may charge a fee is gaining steam in the Florida Capitol. Rep. Kevin Rader’s bill would give them discounted rates.

"It already is law on the state side," Rader said. "Our state parks already have it. This bill mimics is on the city and county level."

Florida’s Department of Veterans Affairs supports the plan.

"We have folks who served all over the globe," said Col. Mike Prendergast with Florida Department of Veterans Affairs. "They come back home to Florida, they establish residency, they become part of the fabric of our communities and it’s a way of saying thanks."

The bill is moving, while Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection secretary is trying to get state parks to be self sustaining.

DEP Secretary Jon Steverson came under fire in the last year after proposing to open up some state parks to grazing and timber harvesting in an effort to boost revenue.

“I want to say, 'Hey, what can we do to make our state parks the most beneficial to the citizens of the state, the visitors of the state and to the environment that we’re serving?” Steverson said.

The local parks bill sponsor said his proposal wouldn’t have an impact on the controversial idea

"It really does not," Rader said. "This is allowing our service folks who protect us every day to enjoy our city and county parks at a discount."

Environmentalists have heavily opposed the idea of opening up the parks in an effort to make more money.