Editorials

Advertising signs on state trails an abomination; Scott should veto bill

Not everything should be put up for sale. Some should remain sacred, free of commercialism and visual pollution. A leisurely stroll on a nature trail through tall moss-dripping oaks should not be tainted with signs that advertise a chicken sandwich, a wide-screen television or a pillow-top mattress.

But that's the intent of Senate Bill 268. The measures allows the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to sell sponsorships on state-owned greenways and trails.

While the legislation contains some limitations on sign placement and size, they still open the door to graphic blight in places where people hope to find tranquility and soak up the great outdoors. The governor should veto this desperate ploy for money.

The measure calls for 85 percent of the sponsorship profits to be dedicated to state trail costs and 15 percent to the state's Transportation Trust Fund to be spent on Florida Traffic and Bicycle Safety Education and Florida Safe Routes to School programs.

The Legislature has a history of diverting trust funds and other dedicated revenues to general spending to balance the state budget and pay for pet projects, so this justification for selling out mother nature should not be considered ironclad.

The bill ostensibly limits signs and displays to trailheads, trail intersections, interpretive exhibits, directional and distance markers and parking lots. A

dvertising at parking places and trailheads could not exceed 16 feet -- a size that qualifies as an unsightly billboard that would stare trail patrons right in the eye.

All other signs could not be larger than 4 feet. Instead of a pleasant view of colorful flowers, a sign that size would dominate a trail intersection -- an unavoidable and ugly intrusion that should not be allowed.

The looped trails at both Myakka River State Park and Little Manatee River State Park would be exposed to this -- 40 miles worth at the former and six miles at the latter.

Hikers should be outraged at the very prospect of tripping over crass commercialism.

Indeed,

In a report earlier this month by Herald reporter Nick Williams, Bill Martin, trailmaster at Myakka River State Park and member of the Suncoast Chapter, put this terrible legislation in a succinct light:

"The trails go through beautiful places of Florida woods. It would be an abomination."

Gov. Rick Scott should veto this true abomination.

Let him know what you think. He can be contacted at: (850) 488-7146; fax (850) 487-0801; website, www.flgov.com.

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