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Florida State Parks Get New Director, Governor Wants More Funding Too

November 3rd, 2017 by Jake Stofan
Governor Rick Scott has announced  long time environmentalist Eric Draper to run the park system.
Draper has served as the executive director for Audubon Florida for the past 18 years.
“Any real accomplishment that we’ve had in the last twenty years with conservation in Florida has had his fingerprints on it,” said Julie Writhmell with Audubon Florida.
Draper lead the charge to get adequate funding for the Florida Forever Amendment.
We spoke with him in 2015 while he took lawmakers to task for ignoring the will of the voters.
“Four million people voted to spend money on helping Florida’s environment, and the legislature has not made a budget that does what the voters told them to do,” Draper said at the time.
Draper has also successfully fought for water protection in the state. And he successfully pushed back on past efforts by the Governor to turn the parks into profit centers.
“The best deserve the best and they got it with Eric,” said Wriathmell.
Draper’s appointment comes as Governor Rick Scott announced a $220 million increase in spending for the environment in his 2018 budget proposal.
As part of the $1.7 billion Scott wants spent on the environment $50 million would go directly to the state parks.
“I’m trying to take my grand-kids around to show them parks and just talk about the importance of our environment,” said Scott.
It’s $40 million more than they received last year.
Audubon Florida says there are plenty of areas Draper could make improvements.
“And of course there were impacts from Hurricane Irma that it could be some time before we see some FEMA funding for it, and in the interim we need to get those fixed up,” said Writhmell.
Governor Scott shares similar aspirations. He’s asking for $100 million to go towards repairing the state’s hurricane ravaged coasts.
We reached out to Draper for comment, but he is waiting until he takes office on November 28th before he comments on his appointment.
DEP Secretary Noah Valenstein said in a statement that Draper was an ideal fit to join the state’s world caliber parks team.

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