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  • 11/18/2020 8:00 AM | Anonymous

    The Florida State Parks Foundation congratulates Florida’s Greenways and Trails System for hosting 10 million visitors during the last financial year, which concluded at the end of June 2020.

    “During this period of restrictions and social distancing due to COVID-19, it is very encouraging to see that people are taking advantage of all Florida’s state parks, greenways and trails and turning out in record numbers,” said Gil Ziffer, Foundation President.

    The most popular trail is the Marjorie Harris Carr Cross Florida Greenway, a remarkable environmental success story that covers more than 71,000 acres and is enjoyed annually by more than three million visitors.

    The 110-mile, multi-use linear park runs from the Gulf of Mexico to the St. Johns River and in places is more than a mile wide. The trail welcomes exercise enthusiasts and casual visitors alike, with plenty of outdoor recreation activities for everyone from hikers, paddlers and mountain bikers to young families with strollers and friends enjoying a refreshing walk through nature.

    According to the American Heart Association, outdoor activities such as walking, hiking and paddling, can reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes while also supporting stress relief and mental health.

    “During this period of restrictions and social distancing due to COVID-19, it is very encouraging to see that people are taking advantage of all Florida’s state parks, greenways and trails and turning out in record numbers,” said Gil Ziffer, Foundation President.

    The most popular trail is the Marjorie Harris Carr Cross Florida Greenway, a remarkable environmental success story that covers more than 71,000 acres and is enjoyed annually by more than three million visitors.

    The 110-mile, multi-use linear park runs from the Gulf of Mexico to the St. Johns River and in places is more than a mile wide. The trail welcomes exercise enthusiasts and casual visitors alike, with plenty of outdoor recreation activities for everyone from hikers, paddlers and mountain bikers to young families with strollers and friends enjoying a refreshing walk through nature.

    According to the American Heart Association, outdoor activities such as walking, hiking and paddling, can reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes while also supporting stress relief and mental health.

    The Office of Greenways and Trails, within the Division of Recreation and Parks, works with stakeholders throughout the state to plan and implement the state’s greenways and trails system, considered one of the best in the nation. There are more than 7,500 miles of land-based trails in Florida and an additional 4,000 miles of designated paddling trails to enjoy. 

    The Foundation, founded in 1993 as Friends of Florida State Parks and renamed in 2018, is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation whose mission is to support and help sustain the Florida Park Service, its 175 award-winning parks and trails, local Friends groups and more than 20,000 park volunteers.  

    It does this through programs that preserve and protect state parks, educate visitors about the value of state parks, encourage community engagement and active use of state parks, and advocacy.

    The volunteer Board of Directors represents private and public sectors as well as local and statewide interests.

  • 11/13/2020 8:00 AM | Anonymous

    The Florida State Parks Foundation will restore the Barrier Island Trail in Dr. Von D. Mizell-Eula Johnson State Park in Dania Beach, thanks to a $5,000 grant from REI Co-op. 

    The REI funds will allow the purchase of 60 yards of crushed coquina shell which will be used to fill in an area of the trail that becomes waterlogged after heavy rain, said Foundation CEO Julia Gill Woodward.

    “Filling this area with natural, crushed coquina shell will make the trail safer, more inviting, and most importantly, will allow visitors access to the entire front loop of the trail”, she said.

    “We expect that stabilizing the wet, muddy section of trail will increase its safety and usability by many different groups of people. For example, people using some types of mobility scooters, trail wheelchairs and beach wheelchairs which can handle some rough ground but not water or mud,” said Woodward.

    REI is opening its latest store location this weekend in Boca Raton and has named Mizell-Johnson State Park as one of the store’s community partners. As a member-owned co-op, REI invest deeply in stewardship of the outdoor places its members know and love. REI actively works with nonprofits across the country to steward and maintain local trails and public lands and connect people to the outdoors. 

    The Foundation, founded in 1993 as Friends of Florida State Parks and renamed in 2018, is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation whose mission is to support and help sustain the Florida Park Service, its 175 award-winning parks and trails, local Friends groups and more than 20,000 park volunteers.  

    It does this through programs that preserve and protect state parks, educate visitors about the value of state parks, encourage community engagement and active use of state parks, and advocacy.

    The volunteer Board of Directors represent private and public sectors as well as local and statewide interests.

  • 11/02/2020 7:52 PM | Julia Gill Woodward (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. 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.

    For 2020 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 7, 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 2019-20, volunteers contributed more than 1 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 7, which can be submitted HERE.

  • 10/20/2020 8:01 AM | Anonymous

    The Florida State Parks Foundation announced today that a major grant from The Batchelor Foundation will help fund needed repairs to the outdoor turtle tank at John D. MacArthur Beach State Park.

    The Sea Turtle Ambassador Education Program educates people about the critical need for a healthy marine environment and the sea turtles are the centerpiece of these activities.” said Foundation President Gil Ziffer.

    One ambassador loggerhead female sea turtle is received at about six months of age and housed in a tank inside the visitor center.  After about two years, she is moved to a large outdoor tank vacated by another turtle that has been released back into the wild. The survival chances for the released turtles are higher because of their greater size. The rotation continues so that there are always two turtles on view, - one indoors and one outdoors.

    “The Batchelor Foundation provided funds for the installation of the indoor tank in 2008, and they have generously agreed to help fund critical repairs now needed for the outdoor tank,” said Ziffer.

    “Properly operating aquarium equipment will mean the Sea Turtle Ambassador Education Program will continue to safely house and nurture two female sea turtles so that people can learn and be inspired to protect them,” he said.  

    Because of the tremendous support from the Friends of MacArthur, the state park is the only one in Florida to have a full-time education director.  Because of this, MacArthur maintains a multi-year partnership with Palm Beach County Schools to provide marine education to K-12 school aged children. This park is a valuable marine learning center for the school children of the community.

    Additional funding is needed to carry out other work as part of the ongoing program.

    The Foundation, founded in 1993 as Friends of Florida State Parks and renamed in 2018, is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation whose mission is to support and help sustain the Florida Park Service, its 175 award-winning parks and trails, local Friends groups and more than 20,000 park volunteers.  

    It does this through programs that preserve and protect state parks, educate visitors about the value of state parks, encourage community engagement and active use of state parks, and advocacy.

    The volunteer Board of Directors represent private and public sectors as well as local and statewide interests.

  • 10/06/2020 3:24 PM | Anonymous

    TALLAHASSEE, FL - The Florida State Parks Foundation was today presented with a $50,000 check from the Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s Outdoor Fund for its Plant a Pine initiative.

    Foundation President Gil Ziffer received the check at Bass Pro Shops in Tallahassee from General Manager Anthony Price. Also present was Shawn Hamilton, Interim Deputy Secretary of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and Eric Draper, Director of the Florida Park Service. 

    Guided by the visionary leadership of Bass Pro Shops founder Johnny Morris, the Outdoor Fund invites Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s 200 million annual customers to support local and national conservation efforts by rounding up their purchases at the register. The Outdoor Fund rallies passionate customers alongside dedicated team members, industry partners and leading conservation organizations like Florida State Parks Foundation.

    The Foundation announced in April a goal of planting 100,000 longleaf pine trees by Earth Day 2021 (April 22). “Now thanks to this wonderful grant from the Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s Outdoor Fund we will sail past that,” Foundation President Gil Ziffer said.

    “Our Plant a Pine initiative has really resonated with the public,” he said. “And now, thanks to this $50,000 grant, we will be able to do so much more. People can even dedicate a tree to a loved one. It is a gift that will continue to grow and flourish for many years to come,” he said. 

    The campaign launched on Earth Day 2020 and has already raised enough to be able to plant more than 80,000 longleaf pine seedlings in state parks across Florida. The seedlings are being planted in coordination with the Florida Park Service in park areas identified for restoration efforts.

    “Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s Outdoor Fund’s generous contribution will allow us to plant over 50,000 seedlings across ten different State Parks,” said Shawn Hamilton, Interim Deputy Secretary of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. “This opportunity would not be possible without the Florida State Parks Foundation’s Plant a Pine initiative, which will help restore longleaf pines populations in Florida State Parks.”  

    “Florida State Parks provides important recreational access for the public to enjoy the outdoors,” said Anthony Price, General Manager at Bass Pro Shops in Tallahassee. “In addition, state parks also help showcase and conserve an amazing diversity of habitats and natural resources. The Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s Outdoor Fund is proud to partner with the Florida State Parks Foundation on this tree-planting initiative. Working together, we all can help ensure a bright future for Florida’s treasured natural resources,” he said.

    The longleaf pine is native to the Southeast and once flourished over a range of 90 million acres. Sadly, it is now endangered, covering less than 3 percent of its original range. It has long been prized for commercial use in building houses, ships, and railroads and its resin used for making turpentine. 

    Mature longleaf ecosystems support more than 30 endangered and threatened species, including red cockaded woodpeckers, gopher tortoises, and indigo snakes. Regular burning to restore natural rhythms enables longleaf pine to become rich, stable ecosystems. Longleaf pines are fire-adapted and dependent on burning, which stabilizes and enriches the soil.

    “The trees are being planted in coordination with the Florida Park Service in park areas identified for restoration efforts,” said Ziffer. 

    Groups interested in supporting hands-on tree planting projects can contact the Foundation through its website www.floridastateparksfoundation.org/trees.

    The Foundation, founded in 1993 as Friends of Florida State Parks and renamed in 2018, is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation whose mission is to support and help sustain the Florida Park Service, its 175 award-winning parks and trails, local Friends groups and more than 20,000 park volunteers. 

    It does this through programs that preserve and protect state parks, educate visitors about the value of state parks, encourage community engagement and active use of state parks, and advocacy. 

    The volunteer Board of Directors represent private and public sectors as well as local and statewide interests.

  • 09/30/2020 8:00 AM | Anonymous

    The Florida State Parks Foundation today congratulated the army of state park volunteers who last year contributed more than 1 million hours of time, talent, and effort. 

    “Florida State Parks are rightly recognized as the best in the nation and this would not be possible without the enormous role played by thousands of volunteers”’ said Foundation President Gil Ziffer.

    Last year, volunteers, including community service and AmeriCorps members, contributed 1,161,640 hours, the equivalent of an additional 559 full time employees and with a value of more than $31.5 million, he said. 

    There are more than 10,400 volunteers who safely work alongside park staff enhancing visitor experiences and helping with park maintenance and resource management. Park volunteers often bring special skills and knowledge and feel rewarded by helping others. 

    The Foundation, founded in 1993 as Friends of Florida State Parks and renamed in 2018, is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation whose mission is to support and help sustain the Florida Park Service, its 175 award-winning parks and trails, local Friends groups and more than 10,000 park volunteers.  

    It does this through programs that preserve and protect state parks, educate visitors about the value of state parks, encourage community engagement and active use of state parks, and advocacy.

    The volunteer Board of Directors represent private and public sectors as well as local and statewide interests.

  • 09/22/2020 8:00 AM | Julia Gill Woodward (Administrator)

    The Florida State Parks Foundation has received a $50,000 grant from Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s Outdoor Fund for its Plant a Pine initiative. 

    “This very generous gift is even more special because it will be used as a matching grant which effectively doubles its worth,” Foundation President Gil Ziffer said.

    The Foundation announced in April a goal of planting 100,000 longleaf pine trees by Earth Day 2021 (April 22).  “Now thanks to this wonderful matching grant from Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s Outdoor Fund we will sail past that,” he said.

    “Our Plant a Pine initiative has really resonated with the public,” he said. “And now, thanks to this $50,000 matching grant, we will be able to do so much more.”

    “For every $1 donated, the Foundationwill plant one longleaf pine seedling in a Florida State Park, and Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s Outdoor Fund will match that donation up to $50,000. People can even dedicate a tree to a loved one. It is a gift that will continue to grow and flourish for many years to come,” he said.

    The campaign launched on Earth Day 2020 and has already raised enough to be able to plant more than 25,000 longleaf pine seedlings in state parks across Florida. The majority of the first round of seedlings are being planted at Torreya State Park, which was devastated by Hurricane Michael in 2018. 

    “Florida State Parks provides important recreational access for the public to enjoy the outdoors,” said Bob Ziehmer, President of the Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s Outdoor Fund. “In addition, state parks also help showcase and conserve an amazing diversity of habitats and natural resources.  The Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s Outdoor Fund is proud to partner with the Florida State Parks Foundation on this tree-planting initiative.  Working together, we all can help ensure a bright future for Florida’s treasured natural resources.”

    The longleaf pine is native to the Southeast and once flourished over a range of 90 million acres. Sadly it is now endangered, covering less than 3 percent of its original range. It has long been prized for commercial use in building houses, ships, and railroads and its resin used for making turpentine. 

    Mature longleaf ecosystems support more than 30 endangered and threatened species, including red-cockaded woodpeckers, gopher tortoises, and indigo snakes. Regular burning to restore natural rhythms enables longleaf pine to become rich, stable ecosystems. Longleaf pines are fire-adapted and dependent on burning, which stabilizes and enriches the soil.

    “The trees are being planted in coordination with the Florida Park Service in park areas identified for restoration efforts,” said Ziffer.

    Groups interested in supporting hands-on tree planting projects can contact the Foundation through its website www.floridastateparksfoundation.org/trees

    The Foundation, founded in 1993 as Friends of Florida State Parks and renamed in 2018, is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation whose mission is to support and help sustain the Florida Park Service, its 175 award-winning parks and trails, local Friends groups and more than 20,000 park volunteers.

    It does this through programs that preserve and protect state parks, educate visitors about the value of state parks, encourage community engagement and active use of state parks, and advocacy.

    The volunteer Board of Directors represent private and public sectors as well as local and statewide interests.

  • 08/26/2020 12:44 PM | Julia Gill Woodward (Administrator)

    The Florida State Parks Foundation has received a $1 million bequest from a former Indialantic resident who was both a passionate birder and long-term Florida State Park volunteer.

    Bonnie Lizer who died last year generously left one quarter of her estate to the Foundation, said Foundation President Gil Ziffer. “In order to ensure that Bonnie’s name and generosity are remembered, a special birding program – the Bonnie Lizer Endowment - has been established in her memory,” he said.

    The first project as part of that program, is the installation of a series of interpretive panels at Sebastian Inlet State Park to assist visitors in identifying common migratory and resident bird species.  Visitors will learn about bird migratory patterns, feeding and nesting requirements, habitat and life cycle.  

    Visitors will also be informed about ways they can minimize impacts to birds and their habitat and the panels will feature tactile and interactive elements for visitors of all ages.  Visitors will also learn about the park’s estuary ecosystem and its importance to a variety of bird species.  

    The interpretive panels will include QR codes that will link visitors to additional information that can be viewed while in the park or once the visitor returns home.  The panels are being installed in an area already frequented by visitors along a walking path next to the Sebastian Inlet.  This path links both visitors and campers to the Sebastian Fishing Museum and beach access point on the south side of the park.  Additional signs will be installed on the north side of the park near the beach access and north jetty.  

    “As Bonnie’s two favorite state parks were Sebastian Inlet and the Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings Historic State Park and her favorite pastime was birding, this project is very appropriate and, hopefully, will inspire many more people to take a greater interest in our feathered friends,” said Ziffer.

    Bonnie and her late husband Robert moved to Florida from Hagerstown, Maryland, in 1989. Robert volunteered at Sebastian Inlet and Bonnie was a volunteer at the park’s McLarty Treasure Museum. They were both lifelong birders and traveled the nation in their RV pursuing their pastime.

    The Foundation, founded in 1993 as Friends of Florida State Parks and renamed in 2018, is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation whose mission is to support and help sustain the Florida Park Service, its 175 award-winning parks and trails, local Friends groups and more than 20,000 park volunteers.  

    It does this through programs that preserve and protect state parks, educate visitors about the value of state parks, encourage community engagement and active use of state parks, and advocacy.

    The volunteer Board of Directors represent private and public sectors as well as local and statewide interests.

  • 07/07/2020 3:18 PM | Julia Gill Woodward (Administrator)

    The Florida State Parks Foundation announced today that thanks to a $90,000 grant from the Delores Barr Weaver Legacy Fund, construction will begin on the first wheelchair accessible glass bottom boat at Silver Springs State Park. 

    “Thanks to the generosity of the Delores Barr Weaver Legacy Fund, the Foundation has signed a contract allowing construction to begin on Silver Spring’s first ever wheelchair accessible glass-bottom boat”, said Foundation CEO Julia Gill Woodward. It is hoped the boat will be in service before the end of this year.

     The Delores Barr Weaver Legacy Fund at The Community Foundation for Northeast Florida was created by Delores Barr Weaver in 2015 as the natural evolution of the Delores Barr Weaver Fund, which has awarded more than $86 million in grants since she created it in 2012.  

    Glass bottom boat tours have been operating at Silver Springs since at least the 1920s.  The current fleet, built in the 1960s and 1970s, is not wheelchair accessible and it wasn’t feasible to retrofit the vessels, so the Foundation commissioned a new boat design. 

    The Florida Park Service took over the Silver Springs attraction in 2013. It was very run down and the expense of repairing and revitalizing infrastructure combined with coping with hurricane damage done in 2018 (the roof of a just built educational pavilion was seriously damaged) prevents the Park Service from undertaking the expense of a new accessible boat on its own.

    “These boats are a beautiful unique design but people using mobility devices such as wheelchairs and scooters are excluded from the tours because the passenger must be able to step in and out of the boat.  The only solution is to build a brand-new boat which is a worthy, but costly undertaking,” said Julia Gill Woodward, Foundation CEO.

    “Thanks to the tremendous generosity of our funding partners, we can now begin construction,” added Paula Russo, the Foundation’s project’s coordinator.  “Soon no one will get left behind on the dock just because they can’t walk,” she added. 

    “We are delighted to be able to support this much needed and very worthwhile project,” said a spokesperson for the Delores Barr Weaver Legacy Fund.

    Contributions for the vessel have also come from the Felburn Foundation, the Friends of Silver Springs State Park, and the Cape Leisure Corporation. 

    The Foundation, founded in 1993 as Friends of Florida State Parks and renamed in 2018, is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation whose mission is to support and help sustain the Florida Park Service, its 175 award-winning parks and trails, local Friends groups and more than 20,000 park volunteers.  

    It does this through programs that preserve and protect state parks, educate visitors about the value of state parks, encourage community engagement and active use of state parks, and advocacy.

    The volunteer Board of Directors represent private and public sectors as well as local and statewide interests.

  • 05/18/2020 9:22 AM | Florida State Parks Foundation (Administrator)

    Florida’s 175 award-winning state parks and trails are now open again and volunteers are being urged to sign up to support them.

    “Volunteers add so much to state park operations. Volunteers add their time, skills, knowledge and enthusiasm and allow state parks to provide memorable experiences that visitors expect from America’s best state parks” said Florida State Parks Foundation’s CEO, Julia Gill Woodward.

    “Volunteers are welcome now as state parks welcome more visitors,” she said. 

    All volunteers go through an orientation process and because of COVID-19, they will also receive in-park training on transmission prevention protocols, and proper use of PPE equipment.

    Opportunities are diverse, from greeting visitors, conducting tours, and assisting with mowing or equipment maintenance, removing exotic plants, maintaining trails and working safely with staff and visitors, social distancing. There is a special need for volunteers with skills such as carpentry, plumbing and so on, she said.

    Many opportunities are available this summer and fall for RVers as Park Residents to aid park maintenance and campground hosts who aid campers, help with campground maintenance and are available for late-night emergencies.

    If you are interested, contact your local park and ask for their Volunteer Manager or apply to park opportunities listed online https://volunteers.floridastateparks.org/

    The Foundation, founded in 1993 as Friends of Florida State Parks and renamed in 2018, is a 501(c)3 nonprofit corporation whose mission is to support and help sustain the Florida Park Service, its 175 award-winning parks and trails, local Friends groups and more than 20,000 park volunteers.

    It does this through programs that preserve and protect state parks, educate visitors about the value of state parks, encourage community engagement and active use of state parks, and advocacy.

    The volunteer Board of Directors represent private and public sectors as well as local and statewide interests.

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