Almost Criminal: State to Subsidize Tallahassee Flights to Convenience Legislators

17 02 2009

In a move that is beyond insulting to the tourism industry that fuels the state’s economy, Delta Airlines has been given a guarantee of tax dollars to finance Saab prop jet flights to Tallahassee from three Florida cities.

This is being done for the convenience of state legislators in the Tampa, Orlando and Fort Lauderdale areas, and it stinks. It is beyond disgraceful: it’s totally unjustifiable.

Traveling abroad as I have the past few weeks the impact of the cuts to Visit Florida have been observed. Some British families have forgone their annual Florida vacation and other Europeans and Indians need an incentive to travel to the state in this economic climate.

FlyJetair.com a Belgian airline has canceled its flights to Sanford Airport from Brussels, Fly Globespan a large Scottish airline is scaling back summer flights to Sanford and Thomas Cook Airlines has scaled back its scheduled charters from Manchester to Sanford. El Al has dropped service to Miami, and Air Jamaica is dropping service to Miami and Orlando (but continuing service to Fort Lauderdale).

This winter due the economy, Air France did not fly a second daily Miami-Paris flight for the first winter in almost two decades, while American Airlines choose not resume its previously seasonal flight from Miami to Manchester. British Airways operated three daily flights to Miami last winter but this year is only operating two. Lufthansa did not resume its seasonal Munich flight opting to route passengers via Frankfurt instead. Alitalia canceled the only nonstop service from Miami to Milan which not only affects tourism but the important fashion industry as well.

In other words, tourism from foreigners, the very life blood of the state’s sales tax based economy is contracting mightily. The non tourism based businesses that fuel Florida such as the aforementioned fashion industry are hurting as well. Yet Florida’s Government is more concerned about their personal convenience.

Domestically, Delta Airlines has less daily flights to the state of Florida from major business centers outside the South than anytime since before its merger with Northeast Airlines in 1972. Additionally, American Airlines has pulled back non-Miami based operations throughout Florida, and United is hardly serving the state at all these days. Delta has less flights to Orlando today than anytime since becoming the official airline of Walt Disney World in 1986.

The pullback of air traffic from the state bringing domestic and international tourist traffic however has not been a concern of legislators. But the lack of conveniently timed flights scheduled around committee meetings to Tallahassee has for years been an obsession of certain legislators that will go unnamed in this piece.

The $750,000 the state has put up to guarantee turbo prop air service to the capitol city, an airport which is not able to maintain enough traffic on its own to justify airline service could be easily spent on attracting visitors to Florida, at one of the state’s tourist driven airports: Orlando International, Orlando Sanford, Southwest Florida International (Fort Myers/Naples area) or Eglin Air Force Base’s Commercial Airport.

The expenditure of these funds on flights to a city that draws few tourists and attracts little if any business traffic cannot be justified at this time of budget crises and reduced tourist traffic to the area. Bu Florida’s Government has once again proven it is shortsighted and simply concerned about individual selfish pursuits.

The fact that the capitol of the state of Florida, the fourth largest state in our union cannot maintain consistent air service should be a call to Leon County and the city of Tallahassee to diversify their economy. Do something to bring businesses or attract tourist traffic to your great city. Stop putting your city at the mercy of lobbyists, legislators and college students and join the rest of 21st century Florida which is a dynamic worldly place.

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Discover Florida: Wekiva Springs State Park

1 02 2009

wekiva

The Wekiva River and Swamp have become a holy grail for Central Florida Environmentalists. But when you visit the area as I have recently it’s easy to see why Central Florida’s rapid development has halted when it conflicts with the health of the Wekiva River area. Attempts to complete the missing link of the Beltway around Orlando have met strong opposition and the only way to complete the highway appears to be through a compromise that will force the Highway to share the current route of SR 46 for several miles.

Governor Charlie Crist’s recent veto of Florida Forever funds ensures the long term health of this ecosystem, and the continued efforts to restore the entire River and Swamp region. The Florida Black Bear an endangered species is the Springs areas most famous resident. Alligators and Turtles are also frequently found in the region.

Here is the Florida State Parks website description of the Springs:

Located at the headwaters of the Wekiva River, the beautiful vistas within this park offer a glimpse of what Central Florida looked like when Timucuan Indians fished and hunted these lands. Just one hour from most central Florida attractions, Wekiwa Springs offers visitors the opportunity to relax in a natural setting, enjoy a picnic, or take a swim in the cool spring. Canoeists and kayakers can paddle along the Wekiva River and Rock Springs Run. Thirteen miles of trails provide opportunities for hiking, bicycling, and horseback riding. Options for camping include a full facility campground and primitive camping areas. Canoe and kayak rentals are available.

kartik-wekiva-river


North of the Springs the Wekiva River runs for 16 miles through the Swamp. Below is the State Parks description of the Wekiva River:

“Central Florida nature exists in its purest form along four miles of the Wekiva River and Blackwater Creek. For thousands of years, Native Americans valued the abundance of wildlife in this area. This system of blackwater streams and wetlands provides habitat for black bears, river otters, alligators, wood storks, and sandhill cranes. Visitors can stroll along the Sand Hill Nature Trail for a self guided tour of the native Florida plants and wildlife found at the park. Canoeists can paddle through the park on the Wekiva River. Equestrian camping is available in designated areas and can be reserved by calling Wekiwa Springs State Park. Horse stalls and corrals are available for equestrian campers. Located nine miles west of Sanford on State Road 46.”

The entire Wekiva Springs/River/Swamp area is unique and critical for the continued health of Central Florida’s environment.







Discover Florida: Shark Valley

25 01 2009

evg-51

Shark Valley is one of the most popular attractions in one of America’s most visited national parks. Located right off Tamiami Trail near the Miami-Dade/Collier line, the entrance to Shark Valley is separated from the rest of Everglades National Park by 36 miles.

Shark Valley’s main trail is unique. Alligators by the dozen lie on the trail as humans walk up and down checking out the scenes. These Gators have lost their fear of humans by virtue of interacting so much with tourists and visitors. However, only one fatality ever occurred between an Alligator and a human at the complex and that was many moons ago. Nature co-exists with human visitors as naturally as it possibly can at Shark Valley.

Tram tours are offered which visitors on board the open air tour on a track which is limited  and the wildlife inhabiting it.  At the midway point of the trip, explorers have the opportunity to stroll up the spiral ramp way and platform of the Shark Valley observation tower, allowing a panoramic view of the heart of the Everglades.

observation-tower


In addition to alligators and wading birds, Turtles, Fish, Deer, Raccoons, and other wildlife can all be seen from the Observation Tower.  From the tower you can also get the best possible look at the Shark River Slough. The Observation Tower can be reached also by hiking on the walking trail. The River is a distributor of fresh water into Florida Bay, and it’s health is critical for the entire Everglades ecosystem to function normally.

The building of Tamiami Trail in the 1920s ruined the natural water flow of the Everglades and the Shark Valley Slough. This in turn contributed to the destruction of fisheries and estuaries in Florida Bay. The combination of pollution, and development has prevented the Bay from getting natural freshwater runoff for decades now.  As a solution an elevated stretch of Tamiami Trail through the Shark Valley River Slough has been proposed. An artist rendering of the proposed Everglades Skyway is below.

everglades-skyway

Shark Valley as mentioned above is part of Everglades National Park and the admission fee gives you access to all of the Park.






Discover Florida: Dames Point

17 01 2009

damespoint

By Kartik Krishnaiyer

For fifteen years after its completion the Dames Point Bridge (officially known as the Napoelon Bonaparte Broward Bridge) was the only cable stayed bridge in the United States with a harp (parallel) stay. The bridge was contructed from 1985 to 1988 and provides a majestic symbol for Jacksonville. The bridge also was the first leg of SR 9A to be completed and connected Arlington and the East side of the river northwards towards Jacksonville International Airport and I-95 north without having to cross the Matthews Bridge and cut through downtown Jacksonville.

Fort Caroline National Memorial is also accesible via the Dames Point Bridge. Fort Caroline was the original French settlement in the present day United States in 1564. It was wiped out by the Spanish a year later as Pedro Menéndez formally founded St Augustine.





Discover Florida: Sanford

12 01 2009

looking_northwest_from_sanford_house_sanford_fl

Believe it or not a sleepy lakeside town is the first image many European tourists have of Florida.  Orlando Sanford International Airport has emerged in the last ten years as the premier port of entry for European Charter operators. Sanford ironically has also served for years as the terminus for the Amtrak Auto Train which brings thousands of northerners to Florida’s tourist destinations each year.

Sanford looks like almost every other mid sized central Florida city. Besides fronting Lake Monroe, the city resembles nearby DeLand, as well as Tavares, Lake Wales, Winter Haven, Leesburg and Bartow in its architecture and natural vegetation. Spanish moss adorns many roadways and  the city maintains commercial industry independent from the larger Orlando metropolitan area.

The city was a transportation center for many years in Central Florida as a railroad head and a water transportation center.  A wilderness resort, President Chester A. Arthur vacationed for a week in the town while in office.

Agriculture was always the centerpiece of Sanford.  The town was also dubbed the celery city thanks to its most famous vegetable crop, and chosen as the county seat for Seminole County in 1913 when the county was created. Today, Sanford stands as a bit of an outlier in the county: at the northern extreme it’s a much older city with its own economy as compared to the rest of the county which serve as a bedroom communities for Orlando.

Yet, today even Sanford has its connection to the rest of the Orlando Metropolitan area.  It’s a quick drive up I-4 from Downtown Orlando or Winter Park to Sandford. The Seminole Town Center has become a primary shopping area for Northern Seminole and Southwestern Volusia County, and the Central Florida Greeneway connects Sanford to the University of Central Florida and Orlando International Airport.

Orlando Sanford International Airport as mentioned above has quickly become one of the busiest airports in the state. A general aviation facility until the mid 1990s, the airport which is located just southeast of the city was the 8th busiest airport in the state in 2007. Traffic into Seminole County’s only passenger airport in primarily international with scheduled services to Iceland, Scotland and England as well numerous charters to different points in Europe. Allegiant Airlines maintains a large operation at the airport connecting over 20 domestic destinations nonstop with Sanford.

Sanford has typically been the most Democratic city in Seminole County. A large African-American population which dates back to the towns early agricultural days has helped Democratic performance which has typically been dismal in the county. But the county like the rest of the Orlando area has swung more heavily Democratic recently. While Seminole is still majority Republican, the trend is unmistakable. Republicans need to reconnect with suburban voters throughout the country and this area is no exception.

What to see in and around Sanford:

  • Weekiwa Swamp
  • St John’s River
  • Lake Monroe
  • Central Florida Zoo
  • Museum of Seminole County History.




What are Florida’s Busiest Airports?

10 01 2009

Kartik Krishnaiyer/The Florida Voice

Tourism has no doubt been hit by the global economic downturn. Florida’s Airports have been adversely affected airline cutbacks, increasing fuel costs and less tourism. However in 2007, three Florida airports, Orlando Int’l, Miami and Fort Lauderdale cleared 10,000,000 passengers.

1- Orlando Int’l (MCO)   17,614,745

2- Miami Int’l (MIA) 16,194,277

3- Fort Lauderdale/ Hollywood Int’l (FLL) 11,079,402

4- Tampa Int’l (TPA) 9, 306, 354

5- Southwest Florida Int’l  (RSW) 3,986,985

6- Palm Beach Int’l  (PBI) 3,475,109

7- Jacksonville Int’l (JAX) 3,137,986

8- Orlando Sanford Int’l (SFD) 985,661

9- Pensacola Regional (PNS) 832,127

10- Sarasota/Bradenton (SRQ) 782,459

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11- Tallahassee (TLH)   12- Northwest Florida Regional (VPS) 13- St Petersburg/Clearwater Int’l (PIE) 14- Daytona Beach Int’l (DAB) 15- Key West Int’l  (EYW) 16- Panama City/Bay County Int’l (PFN)  17- Gainesville Regional (GNV) 18- Melbourne Int’l (MLB) 19- Naples Municipal (APF) 20-St Augustine Airport (SGJ)