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  • 12/17/2018 2:03 PM | Florida State Parks Foundation (Administrator)

    Don Philpott, Executive Director

    Florida’s magnificent, award-winning state parks have won the national Gold Medal for Excellence a record three times, something that no other state has been able to achieve.

    Our 175 state parks and trails attract more than 30 million visitors a year and pump over $3 billion into the Florida economy. Yet this all comes at a cost.

    As visitation increases so does the wear and tear and the need to maintain an infrastructure that in many cases is already in urgent need of replacement. A recent survey of parks found that the cost of repairing and restoring this aging infrastructure statewide is about $1 billion. In addition, there are many capital projects needed to enhance the visitor experience and ensure the parks remain vibrant for future generations.

    While the parks are increasingly self-supporting, currently over 80% self-sufficient, there is no money available for this enormous backlog of work and the problem is further exacerbated when hurricanes like Irma and Michael strike causing tens of millions of dollars’ worth of damage that was not budgeted for.

    So as 2018 draws to a close, there are many ways that you can show your support of Florida’s parks and all that they stand for. You can, of course, volunteer and there are scores of volunteer opportunities especially if you have special skills and talents. You get to work in some of Florida’s most beautiful environments alongside like-minded volunteers who love the parks as much as you do.

    You can also choose to make a gift either to your local park or to the Florida State Parks Foundation, the statewide group, that supports the work of all the local Friends groups and an army of 11,000 volunteers.

    Giving can be in the form of an end of year donation or you can check with your employer to see if they have a monthly giving plan where your donation is taken out of your pay check and sent to the nonprofit of your choice.

    However one chooses to give, December is the most popular time to make a donation. In 2017, Americans gave $410 billion to charities – up 5% over 2016 – and nearly one third of that was given in the month of December. That means that in 31 days, Americans gave $125 billion to nonprofit organizations.

    If you love our state parks, please consider making an end of year donation to help support them. No amount is too small, and every cent goes towards projects in the park. Thank you.

  • 12/17/2018 1:43 PM | Florida State Parks Foundation (Administrator)

    Paula Russo, Immediate Past President

    The Florida State Parks Foundation believes it’s vital that children grow up understanding the importance of protecting our natural environment and knowing of Florida’s deep history and past cultures. Our state parks are ideal adjunct classrooms and two of the Foundation’s most important programs work to get as many kids into the parks as possible. 

    The first of the two programs is called, Learning in Florida’s Environment (LIFE), which is a model for science-based environmental education on public conservation lands. Each program represents a partnership between a Florida State Park and one or more school districts to bring students outdoors to learn science through hands-on field labs facilitated by educators, scientists, and land/resource managers.

    With financial help, a LIFE Program site is in development now at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park in Key Largo. The park has renovated and transformed a former storage building into a perfect classroom and now it needs to be outfitted with tables, chairs, white board, and equipment like microscopes, and plankton and seine nets. These items, and much more, is what it takes to “grow” scientists. It’s a long list and costs add up fast.

    The second program is known as Yellow Buses in the Parks. Its purpose is to pay for field trip transportation costs which are often out of reach for many school districts in Florida, especially in economically depressed areas. More field trips mean more school children can benefit from these great educational experiences in the parks!

    If you’re looking for a worthy cause to support with a holiday or year-end tax-deductible gift, please consider these programs. Your contribution will help us expand these programs and reach more children.  Click here and be sure to indicate which program you’d like your donation to go to! 

  • 12/14/2018 11:53 AM | Florida State Parks Foundation (Administrator)

    As the year draws to a close, it is also time to think about our volunteers who give so much. Since 1998, the Board of Directors of the Florida State Parks Foundation has annually recognized outstanding service of individuals and groups of volunteers in Florida State Parks. This year we have simplified the submission process by creating an online nomination portal. Please help get the word out and encourage nominations. The committee looks forward to reviewing the submissions -- it is truly an honor and privilege to do so.

    Last year the number of award categories was increased so that more volunteers could be recognized, and this proved enormously popular. For 2018 awards, a volunteer can be nominated in any appropriate category or in several categories if relevant. We will also recognize individuals who have 20, 25- and 30-years cumulative volunteer service. They will receive a special pin.

    If you know of an individual or a group of volunteers that deserves nominating, please speak with your park manager or Park Services Specialist. The deadline for online submissions is December 20, which can be submitted here.

    Nominations categories are:

    • 1.     ADULT VOLUNTEER: One person aged 18 years and above.
    • 2.     CORPORATE: A group of company employees working on one park project.
    • 3.     LONG PROJECT: Those CSO/park combined partnership projects that have taken more than one year to complete. 
    • 4.     SHORT PROJECT: Those CSO/park combined partnership projects that have taken less than one year to complete.
    • 5.     SPECIAL EVENT:  A one-time event or an annual event.  A recurring annual event may be nominated but it must have occurred within 12 months of date the nomination is submitted.
    • 6.     YEARS OF SERVICE: Awards will be given to any individual contributing an accumulation of 20, 25, & 30 years volunteer service.  These need not be consecutive years, but cumulative.
    • 7.     YOUTH VOLUNTEER: Anyone under 18 years of age.
    • 8.     ADMINISTRATION:  The term ADMINISTRATION refers to clerical work, filing, answering the telephone, certain types of research, tracking volunteer hours, orientation and training, data entry, purchasing, grant writing or tracking, etc. 
    • 9.     MAINTENANCE: The term MAINTENANCE refers to upkeep, repairs and improvements to facilities, equipment and grounds, carpentry, trail maintenance, plumbing, masonry, painting, preventative maintenance, mowing, trash pick-up, restroom upkeep, vehicle and equipment maintenance, small engine work, electrical work, construction projects, etc.
    • 10.  PROTECTION: The term PROTECTION refers to visitor safety, employee safety, emergency preparedness, emergency response, law enforcement, rule enforcement   , voluntary compliance, facility and environmental protection, First Aid, CPR, state vehicle/ watercraft operation, etc. 
    • 11.  RESOURCE MANAGEMENT: The term RESOURCE MANAGEMENT includes both natural and cultural resources and refers to exotic species identification and control, plant and animal identification, ecological or cultural restoration, prescribed fire, lake watch, species monitoring, seed collecting, historical collections management, research, etc.
    • 12.  VISITOR SERVICES:  The term VISITOR SERVICES refer to providing information and access, customer service, interpretation, docent, historical and re-enactment, assisting visitors in the ranger station or visitor center, tram rides, concessions, special events, boat tours, educational programs, guided walks, public speaking, volunteer management, visitor program evaluations, etc.

    In fiscal year 2017-18, volunteers contributed more than 1.3 million hours of service. These awards recognize the many volunteers who give so much of themselves to the state park system. We look forward to honoring them for their dedicated service!

    Remember, the deadline for online submissions is December 20, which can be submitted here.

  • 12/13/2018 5:08 PM | Florida State Parks Foundation (Administrator)

    By Don Philpott, Executive Director

    If your CSO hasn’t made plans for an end of year donations campaign, think again because it is not too late! For motivation, just think about the following two statistics. In 2017,

    Americans gave $410 billion to charities – up 5% over 2016 – AND, nearly one third of all annual giving occurs in the month of December. That means that in 31 days, Americans give $125 billion to nonprofit organizations. Corporate giving is also on the rise -- $20.77 billion in 2017, up 8% over 2016 – and while very important, this pales in comparison to private donations.

    If you don’t ask, you don’t receive, so if you are planning a major capital project or want to raise funds for improvements in your park, get to work now on crafting the right messages for your target audiences. Remember, you have several target audiences and for the best results, they each need a message tailored specifically to them and delivered in the way they are most likely to respond to it. Your CSO needs to deliver the appropriate year-end appeal that resonates with the donor on a personal level. Here is some helpful information on your different donors:

    Millennials: Age 22-36 (26% of the population) are most likely to donate via mobile means—they watch campaign videos and prefer to give via crowdfunding. These supporters respond to text messages and are active daily on social media. 40% of millennial donors are enrolled in a monthly giving program and 46% donate to crowd funding campaigns.

    Generation X: Age 37-51 (20% of the population) are most likely to fundraise on behalf of your organization, make a pledge, and volunteer. These supporters respond to email messages, phone calls and texts and stay up-to-date on social feeds and trends. 49% are enrolled in a monthly giving program, 64% volunteer locally, and 56% attend fundraising events.

    Baby Boomers: Age 52-66 (24% of the population) are most likely to make recurring gifts. These supporters respond to phone calls, check email regularly, and are mainstream adopters of text messaging and social media. 49% are enrolled in a monthly giving program, 71% volunteer locally, and 58% attend fundraising events.

    Greatest Generation: Age 67 and up (12% of the population) represent 26% of total US giving. Donors are most likely to respond to direct mail and give by check. Wealthy seniors are more likely to own smartphones and donate by credit card. 88% give to charity and they tend to give 25% more frequently than younger groups

    Perhaps the most important statistic I can share is that 12% of all giving takes place in the last three days of the year so you still have time to create a plan and execute it! 

  • 11/26/2018 7:55 PM | Florida State Parks Foundation (Administrator)

    Unless you have lived through a direct hit from a hurricane it is hard to grasp the extent of the devastation and destruction caused, even after seeing dramatic images on television.

    When Hurricane Michael struck the Panhandle last month, park rangers from around the state assembled in strike teams and were sent to help the recovery. Even they were staggered at the damage caused both in physical and human terms. That is why the Florida State Parks Foundation was honored to step in and make available a $50,000 hardship fund for those most affected by the disaster.

    As mentioned in last month’s newsletter, recovery is a long process. It starts immediately by providing emergency help to people who have lost everything – their homes, their vehicles, their personal possessions.

    The next phase involves clearing roads and campgrounds, making buildings safe, getting equipment up and running again, and doing whatever else is needed to reopen parks to visitors again. This is where the Florida Park Service’s staff and army of volunteers plays such a crucial role, and this is what is happening right now at many of the worst hit parks in the panhandle.

    The final stage, which can often take years, is to restore the habitat to its original state, to repair damaged buildings, many of them historic, and to try to find the funding to do all this. Recovery is not just a very long process, it is an extremely costly one.

    That is why, as we near year’s end, the Foundation is asking all its members and friends to help in any way they can. It can be a donation, no matter how big or small. It may be the offer of time to assist as a volunteer in the clean-up or work alongside rangers in the many other tasks to be done.

    And, please remember that end of the year charitable gifts are tax deductible and can do so much good. You can go to the Foundation donation page by clicking here.

    You can also go the Florida State Park website to learn more about the massive recovery effort. It is worth quoting here the words of Warren Poplin, bureau chief of FPS District 1 which covers all the most seriously hit parks:

    “I know that many of our park service family are curious to the status of us here in District 1. We have several staff that have suffered impacts from the storm. The damage ranges from total loss, to limbs on roofs. The devastation is surreal when observed in person, photos do not capture the full spectrum of the destruction. Some of our staff reside in Lynn Haven, Panama City, Port St. Joe, Apalachicola, Marianna, Sneads, Bristol, and all points in between. Some lived in the parks and others nearby. 

    I am so impressed by our community and park service family. I am proud to be part of the Florida Park Service and to work with such dedicated, compassionate people. Staff from surrounding parks and locations have stepped up by providing assistance with tarping, laying shingles, removing trees and limbs from roofs. The support from the other districts is nothing less than amazing. The strike team members have volunteered to be away from their families, comforts of home, and familiar surroundings to be displaced, some without A/C or the ability to shower. The work that they are doing is extremely difficult, and they are putting in many hours. Their effort to help us get our parks back open is nothing less than amazing. They will be coming home with many stories of the work they have done and the devastation they have observed.  

    Those of us that live in the affected areas have learned how dependent we have become on fresh water, electricity, A/C, and communications. Services are slowly coming back.

    Thank you all for thinking of us, we are looking forward to rebuilding and opening our parks for our visitors.”  

    With your help we can help the park staff most in need and get the parks up and running – and open again. Please do whatever you can to assist.

    Thank you.

    Don Philpott, Executive Director 

  • 11/26/2018 7:23 PM | Florida State Parks Foundation (Administrator)

    Hurricane Michael blocked access to Florida Caverns State Park. Trees littered the roads and access paths. Florida State Park staff were forced to climb over fallen trees and debris to get in and out of the parks while assessing the damage. Strike teams from around the state used chainsaws, tractors and bulldozers to clear roads and debris. The first priority was to ensure the safety of resident staff.

    With Hurricane Michael coming ashore in nearby Mexico Beach, T.H. Stone Memorial St. Joseph Peninsula State Park felt its full force. The park, located on Cape San Blas between the Gulf of Mexico and St. Joseph Bay, experienced massive winds and waves. Roads, campgrounds and buildings were demolished, and sand buried entire portions of the park. The storm surge was so powerful, it created two inlets, cutting through the park and connecting the bay and the gulf. With one inlet more than 20-feet deep, portions of the park are now only accessible by boat.

    On the banks of Lake Seminole, Three Rivers State Park and its lush forest of pine and hardwood trees was an ideal place to camp, hike or picnic. On October 10, 2018 the park changed forever. Located in the small town of Sneads, Three Rivers State Park and the surrounding community was hit hard by Hurricane Michael. Trees fell or snapped in half. Facilities were damaged, and campsites buried in debris. The road was impassable. Immediately after the storm passed, state park teams from across the state came to help. For days, they sawed trees and moved debris. Staff and volunteers cleared roads and assessed damage. The Florida Park Service, along with the Army Corps of Engineers, continues to work to get the park back where it can once again be a place to come relax and escape.

  • 10/20/2018 4:19 PM | Florida State Parks Foundation (Administrator)

    As part of Florida’s trail network there is now a program to promote trail towns – which act as the gateways to our parks and trails. Florida's emerging Trail Town program continues to expand with the addition of three new towns that were recently designated by the Florida Greenways and Trails Council. Several other towns are currently working with the Office of Greenways and Trails on Trail Town applications. 

    These three join the first two designees, Dunedin and Titusville:

    Malabar, located at the southern end of Brevard County along Florida's East Coast, was designated due to its vigorous efforts to establish walking, bicycling and paddling trails through its conservation areas. The town has an active Trails and Greenways Committee that works to connect their trail system to neighboring towns and they came together to build an impressive trail shelter, an ideal spot for a rest break or picnic or to take refuge from a storm.

    Vilano Beach, located just north of St. Augustine along Highway A1A, has developed a wide range of amenities for bicyclists on the East Coast Greenway and paddlers on the Florida Circumnavigational Saltwater Paddling Trail. The town has wide paved trails on both sides of their main boulevard along with directional signage on every block.

    Clermont, located at the halfway point of the Florida Coast-to-Coast Trail, provides numerous amenities for trail users such as restrooms, shade, information kiosks, way-finding signs, water fountains and showers. A "Meet in the Middle" trailhead is planned and will be complete in 2019. In addition, motels, restaurants and a pedestrian-friendly downtown can easily be accessed from the trail.

  • 10/20/2018 4:07 PM | Florida State Parks Foundation (Administrator)

    It was appropriate that PLAM took place in October which is also Florida Greenways and Trails Month. People often forget that the Florida State Park system consists of 175 parks and trails and the latter have considerable economic impact on Florida’s well-being.

    The Department of Environmental Protection invites all residents and visitors to explore the unique paths and trails found throughout the Sunshine State. Florida has more than 10,000 miles of land-based trails and 4,000 miles of paddling trails that attract millions of visitors, promote healthy lifestyles, and support Florida's economy.

    “October is a great time of the year to explore Florida's outdoors," said Florida State Parks Director Eric Draper. “I encourage all residents and visitors to celebrate Florida Greenways and Trails Month. Whether hiking, biking or paddling, the natural beauty found along our trails is transformative." 

    Long-distance trails in the state include the 1,515-mile Florida Circumnavigational Saltwater Paddling Trail, the 106-mile Florida Keys Overseas Heritage Trail and the 1,300-mile Florida National Scenic Trail. These trails attract paddlers, hikers and cyclists from around the country and world.

    Various trail-related events are being offered at Florida State Parks throughout the month, including fall wildflower and butterfly walks. Find a list of activities planned in your area. For more trail offerings, visit the Office of Greenways and Trails Online Trail Calendar.

  • 10/20/2018 4:04 PM | Florida State Parks Foundation (Administrator)

    Earlier this month I attended the 2018 Public Land Acquisition and Management Partnership Conference (PLAM) in Sarasota, hosted by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection's Division of State Lands. The various panels of speakers were excellent but, as always at these meetings, it was the networking between sessions that was most valuable.

    The three-day conference brought together nearly 250 land managers, public officials, engineers, surveyors, environmental partners and other stakeholders including nonprofits, to discuss public land acquisition and management strategies in Florida. 

    "This conference provided us the opportunity to demonstrate how critical our partnerships have been in Florida's environmental successes," said Secretary Noah Valenstein. "By collaborating with community and environmental partners, we work to complete strategic acquisitions that help protect vital natural resources in perpetuity."

    The theme of the conference, "OneFlorida," showcased the importance of partnerships in relation to public land acquisition and management, and the future of conservation. Experts shared ideas and success stories on a variety of panels including Data Driven Decisions for Conservation Planning, Working Land and Water Partners, and Coming Together for Conservation. In addition to the educational sessions, attendees were invited to explore some of Florida's natural resources, including Myakka River State Park, Sarasota Bay, and others. 

    Approximately 10 million acres are managed for conservation in Florida, and the protection of Florida's resources is paramount, requiring partnerships between government, environment advocates, residents, and the business community. Local governments, county governments, state agencies, military and citizen support organizations all play an important role in preserving's Florida's resources for future generations. 

    The Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s Division of State Lands is Florida’s lead agency for environmental management and stewardship, serving as staff to the Board of Trustees of the Internal Improvement Trust Fund. As such, the division’s role goes far beyond just acquiring lands for protection. It provides oversight for the management of activities on more than 12 million acres of public lands including lakes, rivers and islands so that all residents and visitors have the opportunity to truly appreciate Florida’s unique landscapes.

  • 10/18/2018 7:38 PM | Florida State Parks Foundation (Administrator)

    Nearly every acre of Florida has been trodden on by explorers, Native Americans, settlers, soldiers, traders and entrepreneurs. Although our state has a rich history, sometimes it can be difficult to find a connection between our lives and experiences, and the people who lived decades or centuries ago. There are ways to cross the barrier of time and make history something you can reach out and touch; Florida State Parks' cultural and historic trails can lead you to these transformative experiences. On these special trails, you can trace the same paths as the citizens of the past.

    At the intersection of the Suwannee and Withlacoochee rivers, patches of rain lilies spring up on earthen mounds built to defend against Union Navy gunboats. The rivers were once used to ship lumber and cotton north, which supported the sister towns of Ellaville and Columbus. The site of Columbus is now Suwannee River State Park. In the 19th century, large steamships like the Madison traveled the Suwannee river from the port of Cedar Key to Columbus, often acting as mobile general stores and post offices. Today, the park’s trails take visitors through an open-air museum. Visitors can explore steamboat remains, one of the oldest cemeteries in Florida or remnants of Confederate camps The Madison now rests underwater in Troy Spring State Park along the Suwannee River Wilderness State Trail.

    As Florida’s population increased, the railroad eclipsed the steamship as the best way to transport goods and people. The Tallahassee-St. Marks Historic Railroad State Trail offers a glimpse into Florida’s history, and how  a rail line could dramatically change a town’s economy and way of life. The railroad, one of the oldest in the country, ran for 147 years before it was abandoned. Now, the trail takes bicyclists, horseback riders and walkers through the ecologically rich Woodville karst plain to the town of St. Marks, once a major port for shipping cotton and other agricultural products grown in the Tallahassee area.

    After the Great Depression, New Deal era programs led to the construction of many parks and trails across America. In Palatka, Ravine Gardens was built with federal funds to stimulate the economy and beautify the town. Workers planted thousands of azaleas in the unique steephead ravines, which were formed by the slow collapse of sandy hills. The trails at Ravine Gardens State Park take you through carefully manicured gardens and shaded wilderness areas. Bridges spanning the ravines offer panoramic views of the historic tourist destination.

    these trails represent just a few episodes in Florida’s diverse past, there are many other opportunities to take a walk through history in Florida State Parks. At Dade Battlefield Historic State Park, a trail threads through the wooded site of the Second Seminole War skirmish, and along a military road once used by U.S. troops. A trail at Bulow Plantation Ruins Historic State Park reveals the area as it looked when the Seminoles pushed settlers out of Florida’s frontier, and the plantation ruins tell the dramatic story of how it was abandoned. Many historic parks also offer living-history events and re-enactments. These can’t-miss events are the most exciting way to learn about Florida’s history. However, there is nothing quite like walking through the same forest and hearing the same birds as the pioneers, warriors and travelers of the past.

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