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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
This is my first thread and I don't know If I should post it here. Anyways, I just got this article from Bay News 9 about Pinellas County proposing a hike in the entrance fee for Fort Desoto Park.

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Entrance fee to Fort DeSoto Park may rise
Monday, June 25, 2007
Bay News 9

One of the country's top nature spots could cost more to visit.

Pinellas County is thinking about upping the entrance fee to Fort De Soto Park.

According to Bay News 9's newspaper partner, the St. Petersburg Times, county leaders are trying to dig up more cash to run the park. One idea is a $3 parking or entrance fee.

That alone would generate $1.7 million a year.

It comes at a time when the state is also thinking about raising the fee for the toll road leading to the park.

Fort DeSoto was named America's number one beach in 2005.

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And here is the St. Pete Times article that compliments this story.

35-cent entry to paradise may rise
By WILL VAN SANT and STEPHANIE GARRY
Published June 25, 2007

Pinellas County sees lucre in the lure of Fort De Soto Park.

ST. PETERSBURG - Fort De Soto Park has been paradise within reach for decades, a place where residents and visitors could laze in natural Florida's embrace for three dimes and a nickel.

Now, with the state putting curbs on local government tax collections, Pinellas County is looking elsewhere for cash and sees the popular park as a moneymaker.

That could mean the introduction of a more substantial vehicle entrance or a parking fee at Fort De Soto. The County Commission will take up the idea at a workshop Tuesday.

County Commissioner Susan Latvala called it "appalling" to even consider charging admission to the park, which drew nearly 3.2-million people last year.

But with local governments now "being controlled" by state leaders, Latvala said the days of easy living are gone and new cash streams are needed.

"It's a new day in Florida," she said. "People are going to be very upset."

The park, declared home to America's top beach in 2005, cost the county $5.2-million to run last year. Concessions, camping and other amenities produced $1.9-million in revenue.

The county has run numbers on a $3 parking or entrance fee, which is what a single passenger in a vehicle pays to visit a state park. It's estimated such a fee at Fort De Soto would generate $1.7-million a year.

The fee idea comes at a time when state transportation officials are considering raising the 35-cent toll on the road leading to the park to as much as a dollar to pay for area bridge repairs.

And there's already a 50-cent toll on State Road 682, which visitors must pay before making their way from the east to the park.

So, all of a sudden, a visit to Fort De Soto could set a family back $4.50.

"I don't think that's right," said Terry Brown, 42, a bus driver for Pinellas County Schools who was married in a Fort De Soto pavilion two years ago.

On Friday, he sat at a table shaded by sea grape before loading the John Hopkins Middle School art club on a bus. He acknowledged the county's need for cash. "Get it somewhere else, not the park."

Scottie Beath, 28, a graduate student at the Florida School of Professional Psychology at Argosy University, said she lives near the park and visits almost every day for inline skating, biking, or lounging on the beach.

"It's sad, " Beath said. "It wouldn't be worth it to pay $5 every time you come here."

Glen Nguyen, 24, carried a bucket of fish back from the new pier at De Soto on Friday as he does a few times a week. He said he definitely wouldn't come as often if authorities hiked tolls or charged an entrance fee.

"I have other places to go where I do the same things," Nguyen said. "But this is just a nice place."
 

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It seems like all the major beaches are becoming screwed up in someway. Its gonna become more pricey to get to ft.desoto and clearwater beach is a mess. The good news sort of is people will end up going to the smaller beaches like Indian Rocks where parking is free, even though i know a free place in clearwater beach too.
 

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I don't see why they shouldn't do it. It may lower population which would give the park a cozier feel. It will help add money into the pot for maintenance of the historic structures on site. As long as it isn't too high of a fee it doesn't sound like a deterrant to me. Most of the State Park Beaches throughout the state charge entrance fees - like Anastasia State Park in St. Augustine. I was just at Fort Zachary Taylor Park in Key West, which has beach access, this weekend and paid a $6 entrance fee, so 2 or 3 bucks for what I consider one of the best parks in the state isn't that bad.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Bayway problems go on...

BAYWAY AREA TEAMS UP AGAINST TOLLS

The coalition fights a DOT plan to pay for bridge work.

Residents throughout Tierra Verde, Isla Del Sol and the surrounding communities recently formed a coalition to fight the Florida Department of Transportation's plan to raise tolls along the Pinellas Bayway and bills in the House and Senate that would give it the jurisdiction to do so.

The DOT announced its intentions last November, explaining that increased tolls are needed to replace the roadway's two aging drawbridges.

The state plans to start construction of a taller fixed span bridge to replace the Pinellas Bayway Bridge in early 2009 with a similar replacement for the Tierra Verde Bridge to follow.

The total estimated cost is $180-million.

To fund the project, tolls would jump from 50 cents to $1.25 along the east and west portion of the Bayway and the toll leading to Fort De Soto Park would go from 35 cents to $2.50.

But the plan relies on two bills in the House and Senate that would transfer jurisdiction over the toll rates from the Legislature to the DOT.

If all goes according to the plans, the rate increase could start as early as July 1.

"The FDOT is just waving their arms and hoping that people won't contest it and they're wrong," Travis Jarman, a board member of the Bayway Isles Homeowners Club, said.

Neighborhood associations from the island communities sandwiched between the toll booths and the surrounding neighborhoods that rely on the Bayway for beach access are bonding together.

The coalition will likely include Lakewood Estates group and the Greater Pinellas Point Civic Association for a combined total of about 25,000 residents, Jarman said.

While the rate change would also apply to annual passes for Isla Del Sol and Tierra Verde residents, boosting them from $50 to $125, the $18-million removed from the Bayway's toll fund to pay for the widening of Blind Pass Road is what really has them up in arms.

It was removed from the fund by the Legislature in the mid 1990s and never returned.

"If you want the people who use the bridges to pay, I understand, but don't take our money to use somewhere else and still make us pay. It's not fair," said Ellis Hartman, president of the Bahia Homeowners association on Isla Del Sol.

Rep. Jim Frishe, who is sponsoring House Bill 287 that would transfer jurisdiction over the tolls to the DOT, said, "It's poor public policy to put tolls in the statute." He's working with Sen. Dennis L. Jones, who is sponsoring a similar bill in the Senate, to replace the bridges and return the money that was taken from the fund.

"This is a situation where this area had money taken, and when it comes time to use that money, they want it back. I don't blame them and I'm going to help them get it," Frishe said.

If those funds were returned, the proposed fees could drop, said Don Skelton, DOT District 7 secretary.

"Obviously if there is funding from some other source, then we would look to reflect that in the toll plan," Skelton said.

But while the $18-million is a sore subject with residents, there could be greater implications to anyone who uses the Bayway.

It was initially estimated that east and west tolls could reach $3.50 and Fort De Soto Park's toll could reach $7.25 by the end of the bond issue, if bonds are needed to fund the entire construction project.

St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker sent a letter to the DOT expressing concern over the missing $18-million and the possibility that a trip to Fort De Soto Park could eventually cost more than $10.

"It seems to me that that would really keep a lot of families from being able to enjoy Fort De Soto," Baker said.

Other concerns include fair access to the beach and the effects on businesses that rely on the Bayway to deliver to their customers.

"It's not just a Bayway resident issue. This affects the small businesses along 34th Street in St. Petersburg and the small businesses along Gulf Boulevard in St. Pete Beach," Jarman said.

Barbara Hawkins, president of the Greater Pinellas Point Civic Association, agreed.

"The toll doesn't just affect the people who live out there," she said. "Whenever anyone from this neighborhood is heading out to the beach or Fort De Soto, the first thing we do is hop on the Bayway."

Nick Johnson can be reached at [email protected] or 893- 8361.

Fast facts

Have your say

The Florida Department of Transportation is hosting a meeting that will provide the public time to comment on the proposed changes.

March 12, 6-8 p.m.

St. Pete Beach Community Center, 7701 Boca Ciega Drive

Credit: Times Staff Writer

http://pqasb.pqarchiver.com/sptimes...ge=18&desc=BAYWAY+AREA+TEAMS+UP+AGAINST+TOLLS
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
I don't mind the increases on the north Bayway plazas. But the entryway into Ft. Desoto is the most steep of the increases and the one that I strongly oppose.

35 cents to 50 cents is one thing, but 35 cents to $2.50 is just too much.
 

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What a crock of ****... These people are doing nothing but trying to force the rest of us to pay for THIER lifestyle!!!

The residents chose to live in a place where the cost of infrastructure is unavoidably higher than other areas. Naturally, it is logical, fair and just for users of the road and only those users, to be the ones who pay to maintain it. They use it, they pay for it. The rest of us don't use it, thus we don't pay for it. I guess we'll soon find out if this continues to be a state governed for special interests, by special interests, or if real solutions will start being pursued.
 

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Now here is a rant I can get behind. From 1989 until 1994 and then from 2001 thru June of 2007 I worked for one of Tierra Verde's best know custom home builders. Generally when you had us build your home on Tierra Verde, Bayway Isles or St. Pete Beach, you were spending between $150 - $300 per square foot (Living Area). Basically, about a little less than a million per home. In general I have never seen such a collection of penny pinching tightwads in all my life. The problem is that many of these people are midwesterners who are first generation with money so they are paranoid that someone is going to take it from them. They also tend to think they can do everything themselves because they frequently were small businesss owners who did well and now are semi-retired.

They will whine about the smallest thing. Its sad because we built all these fairly nice (somewhat derivative) houses. Very structurally sound (hardened aircraft shelters would be more applicable), yet I can't tell you the number of Rooms to Go furniture truck deliveries. I would go in client's houses years after completion and it still looked like they weren't done decorating. They won't spend the money and bitch up a storm when they have to part with a nickel. All my Tampa interior design clients knew the value of things and would spend accordingly. Tierra Verde/Isla Del Sol/Bayway Isles residents are just cheap. So of course they are going to whine about raising the toll. It starts eating into their 5% tip money.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Bringing this thread back from the dead, lol.

As many know now, Pinellas County decided to start charging a separate entrance fee into Ft. Desoto and set up an entry gate just before the "T" intersection that branch off into the beaches. Has anyone here been discouraged from going into park since the county implemented the entrance fees?
 
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