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Business Observer Monday, Jan. 20, 2020 8 months ago

Letter to the Editor: County park doesn't receive kickbacks

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Park official says county leaders should be proud of the decisions they made on how to operate Nathan Benderson Park.

(This letter is in response to a column written by Adrian Moore.)

We absolutely agree with Adrian Moore’s assertion, in his Jan. 10 Business Observer column, that Nathan Benderson Park (NBP) “is gorgeous and hosts many wonderful events,” and that “there is no doubt it is an asset to the Sarasota area.” However, there are statements within the column that demonstrate a lack of understanding of the operations of NBP and that are factually incorrect. 

The column questions “whether the park is primarily a public or private asset.” Fact: NBP is a Sarasota County public park, and is only a public asset.    

The column suggests there are “private investors in Benderson Park.” Fact: The park is operated by a 501(C)3 nonprofit, Suncoast Aquatic Nature Center Associates (SANCA). SANCA cannot and does not have any private investors. 

The column suggests there is a “healthy kickback” of tourist development taxes (TDT). Fact: The county provides only reimbursements for actual expenses of operating its park, which come from the TDT. The county estimates the maximum reimbursement from TDT is a savings of more than $1 million in contrast to what it would cost the county (and local taxpayers) to perform similar operations at the park.

The column references NBP as a rowing park. Fact: Rowing is just one thing that happens at the park. In addition to recreation and passive areas the public enjoys, the park offers unique programming such as learn to row and learn to paddle; breast-cancer survivor (BCS), community and veterans dragon boat teams; fishing camps, archery camps and more; plus the many events (not just rowing) and training teams hosted throughout the year.

In regards to economic impact calculators and benefits, we’ll leave this to the economists; however, the conclusions expressed fail to educate readers on how much our local economy relies on the hospitality industry and tourism, how real and important indirect spending is, and its positive impact for local tax collections. 

County leaders should be proud of the decisions they made on how to operate this Sarasota County public park and community asset, and their strategic vision to understand the positive impacts tourism and the hospitality industry have on our economy and local government operations.

Stephen Rodriguez
President/CEO, Suncoast Aquatic Nature Center Associates at Nathan Benderson Park
Sarasota

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