At the urging of our golf-crazy gazillionaire governor and his trusted advisor, Jack "The Golden Bear" Nicklaus, State Rep. Pat Rooney (R., West Palm Beach) and Sen. John Thrasher (R., Jacksonville) have unveiled House Bill 1239 and Senate Bill 1846, respectively, which authorize the building of ten golf courses across the state. Who will pay for them? You will! And where will they go? Smack-dab in the middle of state parks!
Assuming The Orlando Sentinel's right with its chronology, and there's no reason to suppose it's not, here's what went down:
Jack "The Golden Bear" Nicklaus, the former golfing great and long-time resident of Palm Beach County, recently sat down for a little chat about economic stimulus with Governor Scott. Nicklaus suggested that golf might be a partial cure for Florida's economic woes. After all, golf has done wonders for Jack Nicklaus's economy. Why not share the love?
After the meeting with Scott, Nicklaus took his embryonic economic initiative to Rep. Rooney. Why Rooney? Well, Rooney represents Palm Beach County, which has been Mr. Nicklaus's home for many years -- and Rep. Rooney chairs the Palm Beach County Golf Association. A sympathetic soul!
What happened next is a little foggier -- how the notion was passed from Rooney to Thrasher will, I hope, become clearer in the coming days. What is known is this: We now have two bills before us that suggest bulldozing what looks like approximately 2,000 acres of state parkland for ten golf courses -- all designed, according to the bill, by Jack Nicklaus himself. (He has a nice sideline as a golf course developer.) And what will this Linkage Archipelago be called? "The Jack Nicklaus Golf Trail of Florida."
The construction is supposed to be eco-friendly, but that promise comes wrapped in a whole mess of ominous portents. According to 1239:
Each public golf facility shall include, at minimum, an 18-hole public golf course, a practice area, a clubhouse with limited food and parking, and a golf course maintenance building. The public golf facility shall be designed and built in an environmentally sensitive manner and be open to the general public. The public golf facility may include a hotel to enhance the benefit to the tourism industry.
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Didja catch that? House Bill is 2,203 words long, and this is its only concession to Florida's long-suffering ecoystems -- and it's sandwiched between a parking lot and a hotel.
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