More than 300 march to say: Hands off our parks

More than 300 march to say: Hands off our parks

Rally 3 2016-01-23 17.14.32More than 300 people who don’t want cattle grazing, hunting or other uses that could impair the environment of Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park and other state parks rallied and marched in downtown Gainesville Saturday, drawing beeps of support from passing motorists.

The rally was a response to proposals by Florida Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Jon Steverson to open state parks up to such activities to help make them self-sufficient.

Opponents, however, say they go against the primary purpose of state parks: To preserve Florida’s rich natural environment, resources and wildlife, in addition to providing space for passive recreation such as hiking, birdwatching and beachcombing.

“Thirty-one million Floridians and tourists enjoyed our state parks last year, more than Disney World,” said Jim Stevenson, former chief naturalist for the Florida Park Service. “Florida’s state parks are Florida’s special places. They exemplify what is exceptional about natural Florida, the real Florida. They include the world’s finest springs, the largest sinkhole, caves, South Florida prairie, tropical hammocks and coral reefs.”

The parks, Stevenson said, “are not for sale.”P1030362

The rally started with speakers at First Magnitude Brewing Co. on South Main Street, named after the top classification of the volume of water flow in Florida springs, and ended with a march on Main Street to University Avenue. There, the crowd gathered on all four P1030332corners, waving signs and chanting “No hunting, no logging.” […]