Cedar Key Museum faces possible closing

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One of 19 Florida state parks

By Kellie Parkin

To locals, it’s a major visitors’ attraction but to the state of Florida, it’s one of 19 state parks that doesn’t draw enough revenue to keep it open.

The Cedar Key Museum has been proposed to temporarily close public access by the Department of Environmental Protection Division of Recreation and Parks.

The proposal comes in the midst of the state’s current budget crisis. Gov. Charlie Crist has asked all state agencies to submit plans to reduce annual operating budgets by up to 10 percent.

The 19 parks chosen were based on low visitation numbers and revenue compared to relatively high operating budgets, according to DEP spokeswoman Amy Graham.

The DEP said it will do everything in its power to retain displaced staff by moving them to other agency positions. “If faced with closure, current, full- time staff at the affected state parks would have the option to be transferred to other parks,” Graham said.

If closed, each park will remain under the supervision of a full-time caretaker. Funding for seasonal and temporary employees†at the affected parks would be eliminated or reduced, Graham said.

Cedar Key Commissioner Sue Colson said it is important that the facility stay open. “We are an historical community, and the museum represents that,” she said. “We are an environmental community and the museum represents that, too.”

The potential closing could be devastating to the city, Colson said. “Other parks facing closure may be in cities that have other things. But the Cedar Key Museum is one of the only major attractions for visitors and locals.”

Colson is urging every resident to call, email or write their state legislators and Gov. Crist to express their concern for the park. “We need that museum,” she said. “If enough of us contact them, they’ll respond.”

If the closures are approved by the governor’s office, the proposal will come before the Legislature during the 2009 session. If passed, the Cedar Key Museum will close its doors beginning July 1, 2009 for at least one year.

“We fully intend to re-open the 19 parks potentially facing closure when the stateís economy improves,” Graham said.