One of the many perks of living in the Sunshine State is its plethora of parks, from the Everglades and Big Cypress to Koreshan and Honeymoon Island. But as it stands today, Florida residents have no edge in reserving campgrounds over out-of-staters or third-party businesses that can scoop up spots within minutes of their availability.
Twin bills (SB 76, HB 109) now moving through the Legislature aim to change that arrangement.
Filed by Sen. Ed Hooper of Palm Harbor and Rep. Jennifer Canady of Lakeland, the legislation would give Florida residents a month’s head start to book reservations at state parks and block third-party ticket sellers from buying passes and gouging prices.
Lawmakers will consider the proposal in the Senate Environmental and Natural Resources Committee at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday.
Canady, a first-time state lawmaker who won office in August, led many camping trips over the years as a teacher. There is a “tremendous value,” she said, in granting Floridians preferential access to parks in their home state.
“From the Everglades to Paynes Prairie Park to Anastasia State Park, each ecosystem is unique and is part of what makes our state special,” she said.
“It’s important to make sure Floridians get the first shot at reservations in our own state parks (and) easier access to some of the most desirable camping locations.”
Today, reservations at state parks can be booked up to 11 months out. Hooper and Canady’s proposal would allow those with Florida driver’s licenses or other valid state IDs to begin bookings 12 months ahead of time.
Through some minor tweaks to state statutes, the measure would also prevent companies like Ticketmaster from securing spots to resell at higher prices — a growing problem, Hooper told Florida Politics last month.
“There’s a website where you can reserve your spot in our state parks, and there’s several companies that block up all the spots on the first minute of the first hour of the first day you can do it, and the folks that live in Florida get shut out,” he said, adding that giving Floridians an extra month “is fair.”
“We all pay for these state parks, and they’re very inviting, but I just believe Florida residents should be able to secure a spot before they’re all scarfed up.”
The bills by Hooper and Canady, both GOP lawmakers, enjoy bipartisan support. Fellow Republican Sen. Danny Burgess of Zephyrhills and Rep. Spencer Roach of North Fort Myers have signed on as co-sponsors, as has Senate Democratic Leader Lauren Book, the Legislature’s highest ranking Democrat.
Wes Wolfe of Florida Politics contributed to this report.
January 17, 2023 at 6:33 am
This would be great for Florida residents like me. Right now, we spend more time camping in Georgia than in Florida due to available reservations.
January 17, 2023 at 8:10 am
There are many volunteers who spend entire days picking up trash and clearing trails in state parks. Many more people are needed especially for local parks. Why not trade volunteer hours for a first shot at available reservations?
January 17, 2023 at 8:25 am
They need to look at the cancellation policy as well. Seems everytime we can get into a State Park there are ample empty spaces due to no-shows, yet when you try to book, it shows no spaces available. Maybe implement a 48 hour prior cancellation and increase the deposit to a more significant amount. This would incentivise people to cancel and receive their deposit back if they cancel 48 hours prior to the date of the reservation. This should free more spots and allow us local Florida residents the opportunuty to reserve a cancelled spot a day or two before camping. This would also ensure these parks would be at a fuller capacity, which would increase revenue.
January 17, 2023 at 9:52 am
We lived full time in our rv. Now we own a Florida home and travel part time in our rv. We are accustomed to booking out in our campgrounds membership 4-6 months in advance. We have NEVER been able to book Florida state campgrounds even though we practice advance planning. The Keys are totally impossible in snowbird season. Personally, I have always thought that Floridians should be able to book our own parks the 11 month advance window with out of state people having a 6 month window!! Many of the winter crowd are still in the state park in the winter and because of an 11 month window they can actually reserve for the following year while still in the park! It gives them the advantage not Floridians who pay Florida taxes for those parks. While I am well aware how much revenue we receive from our tourists/visitors let’s make it more fair. And at NO time should Florida allow “groups” of sites to be bought or held by companies or corporations and at no time allow bots or algorithms to snatch up the sites.
January 17, 2023 at 7:17 pm
It’s with great thanks I give to our representatives for finally looking after our ability as Florida residents to be able to get into our state parks. I have been enjoying our camping trips in our beautiful state parks for years until about three years ago when I have been unable to book a reservation at our state parks during snow bird season. At the 11 month threshold I would be online at 12:00am for a month straight only to be disappointed not to be able to book a site. I hope this bill will pass and allow for Florida state residents to enjoy the resources that our state has to offer.
January 18, 2023 at 9:36 pm
I love camping at State Parks since they are the cleanest and safe. I have always had to wait sometimes up to eleven months for a site. It would be great if myself and other Florida residents could have an easier chance to use our Beautiful State Parks.
January 22, 2023 at 1:01 pm
With so many people wanting to visit, why haven’t they made more campgrounds availible ? With the closing of Long Key State park five years ago, the state has lost fifty some campsites in the Keys. I believe we need to protect the mangroves and seabeds , But there must be a comprimise to provide an affordable place for folks to spend time in the keys. Even without snowbirds, there are too few sites for all that want to visit.
January 23, 2023 at 2:01 pm
This article has some very incorrect information. Specifically the reference to 3rd parties and companies like TICKETMASTER buying sites and reselling them. The new reservation system will not allow these companies to buy and resell sites. No way! Don’t use that as an excuse for these bills as that’s BS.
January 30, 2023 at 1:25 pm
I definitely will back this. Booking 12 months out it’s still nearly impossible to get a spot. Staying up til midnight just to try to get a spot. I’ve lived her over 25 years and there are still campgrounds I’ve never been able to get reservations for. I’ve loved camping all my life. I love florida parks. Please help locals enjoy the benefits of living here. Thank you.
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