Funding for Gulfport’s Linear Breakwater Park project, a preservation effort to alleviate runoff pollution and flooding, as well as to beautify the area and provide habitat protection, was vetoed by Governor Ron DeSantis on Wednesday, June 2.
DeSantis cut $735,000 out of the state budget for the local project, but Gulfport wasn’t alone in the axing: the governor’s call killed funding for other environmental, cultural and education programs in Tampa Bay.
The waterfront park project was an effort by Gulfport Mayor Sam Henderson, city council and Florida legislators, including more recently Representative Linda Chaney, to turn the waterfront strip of land into a public park and living shoreline, complete with a boardwalk.
“If there’s a will, I’d like to get this done,” Henderson said following DeSantis’s decision. “Eventually, even if we have to scale the project back and find cheaper ways, that’s what we have to do.”
According to Henderson, he pitched the idea through the Living Shoreline Project to protect the area’s wildlife and erosion rates five years ago.
The Linear Breakwater Park Project, a peninsula of land behind the Gulfport Lions Club, had bipartisan support and the backing of Gulfport city officials.
“This is a project near to my heart; it’s just the coolest piece of public land,” Henderson said.
In Pinellas, $370,000 for the St. Pete Urban Youth Farm and $674,484 for improvements to St. Petersburg College’s midtown campus was denied. Environmental and educational programs in Hillsborough, Pasco and Hernando County were also chopped in the budget cuts.