State Politics

Florida Gov. Scott signs bill to allow sponsorship signs in state parks

MANATEE -- Gov. Rick Scott signed a bill Monday that will allow the selling of sponsorship agreements to nonprofit and private businesses for signs in state parks.

The bill will take effect July 1.

Senate Bill 268, sponsored by Sen. Stephen Wise, R-Jacksonville, will give the Florida Department of Environmental Protection the authority to sell the sponsorship agreements. The signs or displays would be limited to trail heads, trail intersections, directional or distance markers, interpretive exhibits and parking areas. Parking area and trail head signs could not exceed 16 feet while all other signs must not exceed 4 feet.

Under the bill, 85 percent of the profits from sponsorships and naming rights would be directed to funding state trails while 15 percent would be directed to the state Transportation Trust Fund for use in the Florida Traffic and Bicycle Safety Education program and the Florida Safe Routes to School program.

"In my opinion, I think its nonsense," said Bob Bowles, a trail master at Myakka River State Park.

There are two trails in the Manatee County area, a six-mile trail loop inside Little Manatee River State Park in Ruskin and nearly 40 miles of looped trails at Myakka River State Park.

Bowles said the intention of hiking in natural habitat is to enjoy its serenity.

"Not to feel like downtown Orlando or Tallahassee," he said.

The original bill would have allowed sponsorship on seven state-owned trails -- Florida Keys Overseas Heritage Trail, Blackwater Heritage Trail, Tallahassee-St. Marks Historic Railroad State Trail, Nature Coast State Trail, Withlacoochee State Trail, General James A. Van Fleet State Trail and the Palatka-Lake Butler State Trail.

Once the bill reached the Senate floor, however, an amendment was made to allow the department to enter into commercial sponsorship with other state greenways and trails.

"We'll be involved with participating in the public process of writing the rules," said Kent Wimmer, director of programs and policy for the Florida Trails Association.Wimmer, also chairman of the Florida Greenways and Trails Council, said the council can provide direction to the state department as to where funds generated should go. Though funds will be allocated to funding state trails, Bowles said maintaining the trails is done by volunteers.

"It should be done the way it used to be done instead of going out to get that easy dollar," Bowles said.

In addition to changing the landscape of state parks, Scott shifted the culture of home ownership in Florida by signing House Bill 1013, which states homeowners are not entitled to an "implied warranty" for amenities outside their homes.

Scott approved the bill on April 27 and it will take effect July 1.

Under the bill, home buyers and homeowners associations cannot sue developers or contractors for damages to common areas such as roadways, sidewalks, storm water areas and utilities based on contract.

Senate Bill 1196, the companion bill of HB1013, was sponsored by Sen. Mike Bennett, R-Bradenton.

Nick Williams, East Manatee reporter, can be reached at 941-748-0411 ext. 7049. Twitter @_1NickWilliams