TOXIC WATER: Martin County looks to new man, department to help maintain Treasure Coast tourism

Parks and recreation department to manage tourism

STUART, Fla. -- - There is a new face holding the reins of Martin County tourism in light of the county visitor bureau being dissolved.

The county board of commissioners is looking to Kevin Abbate and the county parks and recreation department to help continue to promote the area.

"I mean it's sad for anyone to lose their job. It's not a parks department decision, it's a decision of our board of county commissioners," said Abbate.

What is now the responsibility of Abbate and his parks department is maintaining tourism and ensuring the toxic algae concerns do not drop visitor numbers.

"I think our biggest problem right now is our identity, is our branding. Who is Martin County?" questioned Abbate.

Some would say the area is currently defined by toxic algae. The troubled Treasure Coast waters were highlighted on Sunday on NBC's Nightly News to an entire country of potential visitors.

"It is a significant problem and it got significant press coverage. I think that can only help our situation from a county perspective with our elected officials to get some political will to make some changes to a long term problem," said Abbate.

Abbate said he was brought in as a bridge and to maintain the work of the now defunct visitor bureau.

Many wonder what his plan is to combat the negative perception brought on by toxic water.

"That's a tough question. The board hasn't asked the parks department to take over marketing. The board of county commissioners didn't say, 'Alright parks department, you're in charge of marketing.'" said Abbate.

Abbate admits, he does not have an outline to alleviate water quality concerns, he said it is too early.

Abbate said the role of his team is to sustain what is already in place.

If his department were to eventually take on tourism full time, Abbate said he has a plan.

"I will run the same model I run now. Hire very competent, professional people to represent the count and the state holders. That is it," said Abbate.

The county plans to hire at least one additional person to help manage any emails or phone calls that will now transfer to the parks and recreation department.

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