(Photo: Democrat files)
Donald Forgione, longtime director of the state parks, has been reassigned to Paynes Prairie State Park, leaving environmentalists to ask why.
Forgione is a 32-year Department of Environmental Protection employee and came up through the ranks – the first person to rise from park ranger to director of the Florida Park Service.
Monday night Deputy Secretary for Land and Recreation Gary Clark announced in a letter to stakeholders that Lisa Edgar will replace Forgione as parks director.
“I’ve sat down with Lisa personally to talk about the Florida Park Service’s mission and how committed our staff, volunteers and Friends’ groups are to achieving it. We both recognize that it is you, and your commitment to our visitors and the environment, that make us the best state parks in the nation, hands-down,” wrote Clark.
” I know that there have been stories in the press, and comments on social media, that say that DEP’s goal is to privatize or profit from Florida State Parks. Please let me assure you that this is simply not true,” Clark added.
Forgione was appointed in 2010 as the director responsible for 170 state parks at springs, forests and seashores. While charged by Gov. Rick Scott’s administration to extract more revenue from state conservation and preservation lands, Forgione was credited with quieting environmentalists’ fears the parks were being exploited and would be damaged by allowing activities such as cattle grazing and timber harvesting.
Members of various environmental groups credit Forgione with the three gold medals the park service has won in recent years. A representative with Florida Audubon said Forgione leaves “big shoes to fill.”
A DEP spokeswoman confirmed that Forgione has been reassigned to manage Paynes Prairie State Park near Gainesville.