30th Anniversary Timeline

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30 MAJOR ACCOMPLISHMENTS IN 30 YEARS

We are celebrating our 30th anniversary in 2023, and are proud to have advocated for Florida’s award-winning, world-class state parks since 1993! Our work has spanned the state, partnering on park projects from the Panhandle all the way down to the Florida Keys. Check out a snapshot of these efforts – featured here are 30 of our top accomplishments over the years that helped to preserve, protect, sustain and grow Florida State Parks.

2022

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Water bottle refilling station unveiled at Honeymoon Island State Park.

Major Sustainability Partnership with Duke Energy

The Foundation teamed up with Duke Energy Florida for a new collaboration to fund the installation of 121 water bottle refilling stations at 85 Florida State Parks. These stations encourage environmental sustainability by reducing single-use plastic bottles.

New Specialty License Plate

On March 28, 2022, the “Explore Our State Parks,” specialty license plate became available at local tag agencies. These plates were authorized during Florida’s 2021 Legislative Session, and the presale process began in October 2021. The Florida State Parks specialty plate reached 3,000 presales in just 34 days was the first plate from the 2021 Legislative Session to meet all design, development, manufacturing and presale requirements established to begin the distribution process.

License Plate Graphic - Nature
Florida State Parks License Plate – NATURE

A Florida-based graphic designer created the license plate artwork.

Rep. Renner Visits Washington Oaks Gardens State Park
Speaker-Elect Paul Renner visits Washington Oaks Gardens State Park ahead of 2022 session

Speaker-elect Paul Renner visits Washington Oaks Gardens State Park ahead of the 2022 legislative session.

Historic State Parks Legislative Budget

The 2022 Florida Legislature massively increased funding for Florida State Parks, with a record $232.9 million allocated in the budget for maintenance, repair and park improvements.

Major Construction Grant Award

The Foundation was awarded a $933,500 grant from the Florida African American Cultural and Historical Grants Program to construct a representation of the historic 1738 Fort Mose in St. Augustine. The site of the fort, now Fort Mose Historic State Park, is designated as a National Historic Landmark and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Fort Mose was the site of the first legally sanctioned free African settlement in what is now the United States.

Fort Mose Reenactors

Reenactors from the Fort Mose Historical Society perform a weapons demonstration.

2021

Beach Wheelchair
Beach Wheelchair

Beach wheelchairs ride through sand and terrain that is often difficult to navigate for traditional wheelchairs.

Beach Wheelchairs Provided to Every Coastal State Park

Fifty-two state parks along Florida’s coast received a beach-accessible wheelchair through a partnership between the Foundation and Surfing’s Evolution & Preservation Foundation.

First-Ever Accessible Glass-Bottom Boat at Silver Springs

The Foundation commissioned the design of a 37-foot accessible boat, which includes a flat deck and spacious aisles for easy and convenient access for mobility assistive devices. The boat is also equipped with an induction-loop system that helps passengers using hearing aids to listen to the captain’s narration. In keeping with the tradition of naming the glass-bottom boats at Silver Springs after Seminole tribal chiefs, the new boat was named Chief Potackee – Betty Mae Tiger Jumper, after the only woman to serve as chief of the Seminole Tribe of Florida.

Foundation at Silver Springs Ribbon Cutting for Accessible Glass Bottom Boat
Foundation at Silver Springs Accessible Glass Bottom Boat Ribbon Cutting

Silver Springs State Park hosts a ribbon-cutting ceremony for its new accessible glass-bottom boat.

Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park
Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park

Friends of Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park used a small grant award to install new interpretive panels, including at the park's Dark Sky viewing area where visitors can experience night skies without artificial light distractions.

CSO Small Grants Program

The Foundation offers small grant opportunities state park citizen support organizations (CSOs), as well as to parks that do not have a CSO. The program allocates up to $50,000, in increments of $5,000, toward park improvement projects.

License Plate Bill Signed

After unanimous support for the “Explore Our State Parks” specialty license plate in the Florida House and Senate, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the bill into law, authorizing the new plate that supports Florida’s award-winning state parks.

Foundation Board with License Plate Image
Florida State Parks Foundation Board with License Plate Image

2020

$1 Million Bequest to Foundation

The Foundation created the Bonnie Lizer Endowment to honor the generous benefactor. Through this endowment, the Foundation created and installed interpretive birding panels were installed at Sebastian Inlet State Park.

Ribbon Cutting - Interpretive Bird Panels
Ribbon Cutting – Interpretive Bird Panels

Park staff hold a ribbon-cutting event for the interpretive bird panels at Sebastian Inlet State Park.

Longleaf Pines
longleafpine

Plant a Pine Program

On Earth Day 2020, the Foundation announced a goal to plant 100,000 native longleaf pine trees in state parks by Earth Day 2021. Through grassroots support and corporate sponsorship, the initiative was a success and exceeded its goal. Since 2020, the program has funded the planting of nearly 200,000 trees.

2019

First Park Champion of the Year

Sen. Rob Bradley was the first recipient of the Foundation’s Park Champion of the Year award. This award recognizes and honors an individual deemed to have made the most outstanding contribution to help sustain, protect and preserve Florida’s award-winning state parks.

2018 park champion Sen Bradley
2018 park champion Sen Bradley

Sen. Rob Bradley receives with the Foundation's Park Champion of the Year award.

2018

Park Staff

Hundreds of park professionals have received trainings through the John Kerschner Scholarship Fund.

John Kerschner Scholarship Fund

Recognizing the generous endowment benefactor, the Foundation created the John Kerschner Scholarship Fund to provide annual professional development and training for park professionals.

Major Bequest

John Kerschner made a bequest of nearly $17 million to the Foundation.

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Rebranded as Florida State Parks Foundation

Friends of Florida State Parks rebranded and established as the Florida State Parks Foundation.

2016

LIFE Program

Learning in Florida’s Environment (LIFE) is a model for science-based environmental education on public conservation lands. The LIFE Program is a process for reinforcing and enriching the existing curriculum through hands-on field labs facilitated by park rangers and volunteers who are educators, scientists and land/resource managers.

Life Program
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The LIFE Program provides hands-on education opportunities in Florida State Parks.

2015

School field trip
School field trip

Yellow Buses in State Parks seeks to ensure that transportation is not a barrier to park access for schools and summer camps.

Yellow Buses in State Parks

Florida State Parks offers excellent educational opportunities designed specifically for school field trips. However, bus field trip transportation costs may not be within reach for many schools and summer camps. Yellow Buses in State Parks was created to assist with these costs so that no child misses out on these valuable educational experiences.

2012

Access for All Fundraising Campaign

The Foundation launched the Access for All fundraising campaign to increase accessibility at Florida State Parks. This program focuses on garnering gifts that enhance accessible features at state parks. For example, through charitable partnerships, the Foundation has funded beach- and trail-accessible wheelchairs, floating wheelchairs, an accessible glass-bottom boat and an accessible fishing pier, among many other projects over the years. Accessibility remains a major focus for the Foundation.

Electric Accessible Tram at Topsail Hill Preserve
Electric ADA Tram – Topsail Hill Preserve SP

An accessible electric tram went into service at Topsail Hill Preserve State Park in 2021.

Destination Marketing Organization Partners
DMO Partners

Destination Marketing Cooperative Partnership Program

Looking to enhance cross promotional opportunities, the Foundation began connecting with Destination Marketing Organizations (DMOs) toward common goal of encouraging visitation to Florida’s premier destinations.

2011

Annual State Park Economic Impact Sheets

Seeking to advocate for the economic benefits offered by state parks, the Foundation creates annual economic impact sheets for each state park with specific data on visitation numbers, jobs supported and staff, among other factors.

2021 Park Impact Sheets

2022 Park Impact Sheets

2009

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Foundation board members and park citizen support organization leaders attend the 2014 CSO Workshop.

Annual CSO Workshop

In 2009, the Foundation organized and sponsored the first CSO workshop. Held in Fort Myers, the three-day meeting featured a variety of speakers, seminars and networking opportunities related to parks, outdoor recreation, public lands and support organizations. The workshop has since become an annual highlight.

2003

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Junior Ranger Program

The Foundation funded the reprinting and supply of educational booklets and certificates for the Florida State Parks Junior Ranger Program, which allows young park visitors to learn more about state parks and our state’s natural, cultural and historical resources.

2002

Habitat Restoration at Hugh Taylor Birch State Park

This habitat restoration work at one of Fort Lauderdale’s most loved parks removed invasive plant species and replaced them with native plants to help with native plant recovery.

Hugh Taylor Birch

Hugh Taylor Birch State Park offers an oasis of outdoor experiences in busy Fort Lauderdale.

1999

Sen. Simpson Tour
Sen. Simpson Tour Underwater Observatory

Senate President Wilton Simpson toured Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park in 2021.

First Legislative Park Tours

The Foundation began hosting legislative tours to help our state’s lawmakers learn more about our parks and enjoy their natural, cultural and historical experiences.

Support and Recognition Programs for Volunteers

The Foundation organizes and funds the Florida Park Service’s annual awards program, which recognizes volunteers and their invaluable contributions to state parks.

Foundation Volunteer Appreciation

2022 Volunteer Appreciation Event (From left: Foundation President Tammy Gustafson, Florida State Parks Director Chuck Hatcher, and Foundation board member emeritus Don Philpott enjoy a volunteer appreciation event.

1998

Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park

Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park spans more than 50,000 acres in Central Florida.

Testified Before Governor & Cabinet

The Foundation helped to advocate for Kissimmee Prairie to become a state preserve. Today, Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park is one of Florida’s largest parks and offers amazing night-sky views.

1997

First ‘Partnership in Parks’ project

The project focused on renovating the lighthouse keeper’s cottage at Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park in Key Biscayne.

Bill Baggs Cottage
Bill Baggs Cottage

The lighthouse at Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park is one of South Florida's iconic landmarks.

1995

Hurricane Response
Hurricane Response

The Foundation assists Florida Park Service teams in their recovery efforts after major storms.

Hurricane Restoration Fund

Following natural disasters, this fund provided assistance for projects in state parks affected by hurricanes.

1994

Legislative Advocacy Begins

Legislative advocacy and education efforts started with contacting budget conference members and helping to obtain the best budget for the Florida Park Service in many years.

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The Foundation holds a press conference at the Florida Capitol.

1993

Duke Energy Logo
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Duke Energy Florida is among the Foundation's many corporate partners.

Corporate Membership Campaign

Early Foundation activity involved outreach and education to Florida businesses with the goal of creating partnerships that would benefit Florida State Parks.

Established as Friends of Florida State Parks

To enhance and perpetuate the Florida state park system for residents and visitors, the Friends of Florida State Parks, a statewide citizen support organization, was established in 1993. On Nov. 12, a ceremony was held at Wekiwa Springs State Park to install the new organization.

Friends of Florida State Parks

SUPPORTING THE FOUNDATION

For more information about supporting the Florida State Park Foundation, visit our Membership and Ways to Give sections of the website.