• 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.

  • 09/26/2018 4:08 PM | Florida State Parks Foundation (Administrator)

    Florida’s award-winning parks attract about 32 million visitors a year. The vast majority of these guests are responsible and do respect the environment. They follow the ‘leave no trace’ rule of ‘pack it in and pack it out’, or at least they find a trash can to dispose of their litter.

    Unfortunately, though, some people are not as considerate and they scatter their trash without regard for the damage it does to the environment or for the eyesore they are creating.

    That is why a few good pickup lines come in handy when you see someone littering. For instance, “please pick up that cigarette butt--did you know it can take up to 12 years to decompose?” Or, “please pick up that plastic bottle--did you know it takes over 450 years to decompose?” We can all benefit from a refresher course in personal pollution solutions.

    It is sobering to learn that every year we use approximately 1.6 million barrels of oil solely for producing plastic water bottles. Plastic waste is one type that takes far too long to decompose. Plastic bags that we use in our everyday life take up to 1,000 years to decompose. However, one bag I do urge all of you to carry in your pocket is one to use for picking up pieces of trash you find while out hiking or enjoying the countryside--and dispose of it responsibly!

    Once in the water, plastic never fully biodegrades, but breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces, eventually being dubbed a "microplastic"—something that is less than 5mm long but can cause significant problems for marine life.  In the Pacific Ocean, there is one area of plastic waste debris that is twice the size of Texas and there are many others like it in the oceans of the world.

    Even glass waste can be problematic. While glass is made basically from sand, it takes millions of years to decompose. The list goes on to include: monofilament fishing line - 600 years, disposable diapers - 250-500 years, plastic cups - 50 years, tin cans - 50 years, wool clothing - 1-5 years. And Styrofoam and foil never biodegrade!

    Do you know that every minute, every day, more than 120,000 aluminum cans are recycled in the U.S.? But, at the same time, in every three-month period, enough aluminum cans are thrown away in America that could rebuild the entire American commercial aircraft fleet. Aluminum cans take 80-200 years in landfills to fully decompose, so please recycle them!  

    Most, if not all parks have recycling bins and benefit from selling the cans for money that can be spent on projects in the park. Recycling is the foremost pollution solution, in conjunction with responsible and accountable trash disposal, in our parks and everywhere.

  • 09/26/2018 4:04 PM | Florida State Parks Foundation (Administrator)

    Savannas Mint, also known as Savannas Balm, (Dicerandra immaculata var. savannarum) is a rare species of flowering plant in the mint family.  It’s an ancient species which evolved when Florida was mostly underwater except for a ridge running down the center of the state from the north through the mid portion and a few island points high enough to stay above the water line.  The conditions were sandy, hot, dry, and desert-like with little to no tree canopy. When the water levels receded these habitats, which we now call “scrub”, remained and continued to be the natural home of thriving species of animals and plants.  Some of these can be found nowhere else on the planet!

    Savannas Mint is one of these endemic plants and a small population was discovered in 1995 in a scrub area close to a border of Savannas Preserve State Park (St. Lucie County).  This scrub habitat where these plants evolved and had been living for many thousands of years was being cleared for development.

    Seeds and cuttings were taken from the doomed plants and grown at the Rare Plant Conservation Program at Bok Tower Gardens, managed by Cheryl Peterson.  The new plants were placed back in the protected scrub habitat of Savannas Preserve State Park where they’ve been thriving and will remain protected.  

    Many of Florida’s state parks are a refuge for rare and endangered plants and animals - another reason to support and protect our Florida State Parks!

    To learn more about the rescue of Savannas Mint visit:

    Scrub habitats:

    Savannas Preserve State Park:

  • 09/26/2018 3:53 PM | Florida State Parks Foundation (Administrator)

    One of the Florida State Parks Foundation (FSPF) primary areas of interest is supporting children's education programs in our state parks.  We believe taking children off campus on field trips allows them to get a broader view of their community. It helps give them a sense of place and place attachment but must, at the same time, help with their educational goals.

    Florida State Parks are tremendous adjunct classrooms and have a cadre of staff and volunteers who have developed excellent educational programs on Florida's environment, history, and culture.  These programs enhance required studies in STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) as well as Social Studies. Teachers are eager to take advantage of these resources, but school budgets often fall short of the funds needed to pay the bus transportation costs - that's where Yellow Buses in the Parks can help.

    Yellow Buses in the Parks is a grant program that helps fund bus transportation costs for student field trips to Florida State Parks.  Another Foundation program, LIFE-Learning In Florida’s Environment, assists with funds for supplies and equipment that the parks need like microscopes, dip nets, nature guides, etc., to enhance the learning experience.

    Educating Florida’s children is a team effort that requires caring and dedicated teachers, park rangers, volunteers and generous people willing to help finance programs.  

    Become part of the team!  Visit our website to donate and to join our organization.

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