State park reservations bill clears second hurdle in Senate

Florida residents will get a jump on state park reservations by a month.

Florida residents would get a jump on state park reservations by a month under a Senate bill that unanimously passed committee on a committee substitute this week.

“Florida residents and visitors from around the world are drawn to our 175 award-winning state parks — 800,000 acres and 100 miles of coastline,” bill sponsor and Palm Harbor Republican Sen. Ed Hooper said regarding SB 76.

“During Fiscal Year 2021-2022, over 32 million people chose to come visit our state parks. Now, that’s good, and that’s got some bad.”

Hooper made the remarks in front of the Senate Appropriations Committee on Agriculture, Environment and General Government.

The system presently allows for making reservations 11 months in advance, but Hooper said third-party companies snap those up immediately, leaving in-state visitors out in the cold.

“This bill makes a slight change to give Florida residents a one-month advance opportunity to make that reservation,” Hooper said.

A Florida resident who wants to take advantage of the new early window would have to provide proof of residence, like a valid state driver’s license or other identification card issued under Section 322.051 of the Florida Statutes.

SB 76 covers reservations for state park campsites, including RV sites, but Senate staff noted in a pre-meeting analysis it was unclear whether that includes reservations for all campground amenities, like cabins, glamping sites and boat slips.

The amendment to the bill cleared up some of that confusion, and moved up the reservation window from 12 and 11 months, respectively, to 11 and 10 months.

“Based on our conversation with (the Florida Department of Environmental Protection), the amendment does the following — it allows Florida residents to make reservations 11 months in advance and non-residents 10 months in advance,” Hooper said.

“It also expands from RV sites to include not only RV, but state park cabins; campsites; tent, boat and equestrian camping — everything but primitive and glamping.”

Passed unanimously, the bill awaits action in the Senate Committee on Fiscal Policy.

Wes Wolfe

Wes Wolfe is a reporter who's worked for newspapers across the South, winning press association awards for his work in Georgia and the Carolinas. He lives in Jacksonville and previously covered state politics, environmental issues and courts for the News-Leader in Fernandina Beach. You can reach Wes at [email protected] and @WesWolfeFP. Facebook:


  • Hugh Brown

    March 16, 2023 at 3:52 pm

    This article completely overlooks the economic impact that losing the out of state campers will have. Legislation should really address the issue of third party companies reserving sites if that is the primary problem.

  • David Schaefer

    March 18, 2023 at 5:19 pm

    This is a post to a thread in the Bahia Honda State Park FB page.
    Brian Moyer
    I received this message a few days ago from the State. As a citizen and tax payer of the great state of Florida, it is nice to see the residents get priority to utilize our parks….
    Dear Mr. Moyer,
    Thank you for taking the time to provide feedback regarding your camping experience and our reservation policies. Although the Florida Park Service welcomes visitors from all over the United States and many foreign countries, statistics show that the majority of our park users are Floridians – making nearly 70% of total bookings for campsites and cabins.
    # of Overnight Accommodation Reservations in 2022
    Percentage of park reservations
    Other states/nations
    Total Reservations
    Even during the most popular camping season of the year (November through March), Florida residents account for 54% of park overnight guests, while out-of-state visitors are 46% of the occupants during this time.
    Currently there is a bill being developed in the Florida legislature (Senate Bill 76) which, if passed into law, would permit Florida residents to make campsite/cabin reservations up to one year prior to their desired check-in date, while out-of-state visitors may continue to make bookings a maximum of eleven months out from their check-in date. If this bill passes, the Florida Park Service will implement this policy according to the schedule stated therein. Please let me know if I can answer any further questions you may have.
    Sincerely yours,
    Julie R. Kurisko
    Florida Department of Environmental Protection
    Division of Recreation and Parks
    Interpretive Services : Communications
    Information Line

    It looks pretty clear that Florida residents get the bulk of the reservations.

    This is a post that I made to that same thread.

    David Schaefer
    I think everyone here will agree that there are problems with the Florida state park reservation system as it is today. I also believe that there are plenty of areas that could be changed that would help correct some of the problems. Everyone talks about snowbirds being site hogs through the winter season. A simple change to the days limited in a given time frame would help change that. Florida is a long state so say you divided the state into 4 regions and limited the length of stay to the 14 days in a given region in a 30 day period. That would cut down on guests staying 14 nights in one campground, leaving for 3 nights, or 14 if they had a reservation in another state park, to another campground and coming back for another 14 days and so on and so on. This is just one of the changes that could be made that would help. We have enjoyed coming to the keys and are tickled to death if we can get 14 nights and then are happy to move on.

    I live out of state but I think SB 76 is a move in the wrong direction.

    • Hugh Brown

      March 22, 2023 at 6:04 pm

      Good information and good points in your post. Unfortunately, it seems to be a foregone conclusion that the bill will be approved without significant change. It is too easy for lawmakers to blame the out of staters in this matter.

  • David Schaefer

    March 23, 2023 at 1:40 pm

    When it involves government it is very rare to see it done right. As others have said, and I don’t know if this is the case or not, if federal funds are used in the Florida State Parks system than a bill such as this should not be pasted. Cutting the times that a given guest could stay in a given region and time frame would cut down on the so called snow birds hogging sites for the entire winter season. But were not addressing that problem at this point. Again I am an out of stater and I am tickled to get 14 days.

  • Charles Beers

    March 24, 2023 at 9:38 pm

    I don’t doubt that Julie Kurisko‘s figures are correct. They don’t, however, paint an accurate picture. Floridians rent 70% of the sites during the year. Naturally, out-of-state residents wouldn’t come to Florida to camp between May and November. The second part of her comments About Floridians exceeding non-residence during the high season doesn’t break the camping down in a meaningful way. Break those figures down between state parks at the latitude of Tampa and south versus Tampa and north. I think you’ll find that a large majority of the campers Tampa and south are non-residents.

    If non-resident automation entities are grabbing many of the campsites, find a technological way to stop that. During the school year, Floridians camp on the weekends. If Floridians grab the weekends, non-residents won’t/can’t come to Florida state parks. That’s going to hurt a lot of businesses.

Comments are closed.


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