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  • 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.

  • 05/01/2020 11:31 AM | Florida State Parks Foundation (Administrator)

    The Florida State Parks Foundation welcomes the decision to begin reopening Florida’s award-winning state parks and allow Floridians to enjoy once again all the benefits that they have to offer.

    “At this time of incredible stress in the lives of so many people, beginning to reopen the parks allows our residents and visitors to spend quality time outdoors in a safe environment,” said Foundation CEO Julia Gill Woodward.

    “Numerous studies have shown that nature is actually good for our health and well-being and Florida’s state parks are the ideal place to commune with nature, reduce stress levels and unwind,” she said. “And by continuing to be ever vigilant in practicing social distancing, our parks can also provide a safe outlet for so many.”

    Being stuck indoors tends to reduce exercise levels while visiting a state park allows you to walk, jog, cycle, canoe and maybe swim – all activities that improve health and well-being.

    Another benefit is that you become more relaxed. According toresearchit only takes five minutes to experience the relaxing effects of nature.  Your concentration will also improve. Going outside can have some impactful results on your brainpower. Studies show that spending time outside can improve creative thinking. 

    People who spend more time outdoors have lower blood pressure, lower cortisol levels and a lower pulse than people who spend more time indoors or in urban areas. 

    “We obviously want our residents and visitors to feel safe in our state parks. Every effort is being made to provide an outdoors opportunity with safety and enjoyment achievable in the same visit and our Foundation stands ready to support the Florida Park Service, its staff and volunteers in any way we can,” said Gil Ziffer, President of the Florida State Parks Foundation. 


    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.

    ###

  • 04/13/2020 8:55 AM | Florida State Parks Foundation (Administrator)

    A major grant from the Sea Turtle Conservancy will help improve sea turtle data collection at many of Florida’s coastal state parks.

    The $12,798 grant to the Florida State Parks Foundation was funded by a grant awarded from the Sea Turtle Grants Program. The Sea Turtle Grants Program is funded from proceeds from the sale of the Florida Sea Turtle License Plate. Learn more at www.helpingseaturtles.org.

    The Florida Park Service (FPS) manages some of the highest density sea turtle nesting beaches in the state. The funds will be used to purchase specialized Trimble Global Positioning Systems (GPS) mobile data collection devices for parks utilizing the mobile data collection application developed by the Department of Environmental Protection’s Bureau of Natural and Cultural Resources.

    “We recognize the importance of ensuring continued and high-quality collection of sea turtle nesting data on state parks. This mobile application will allow park rangers to collect data more efficiently and with a higher level of accuracy. It also allows for real-time data viewing and analysis,” said Foundation CEO, Julia Gill Woodward. “This will help ensure these natural resources are protected for the public of Florida into perpetuity.”

    The beach parks involved are: Avalon State Park and Fort Pierce Inlet State Park, Cayo Costa State Park, Don Pedro Island State Park, Gamble Rogers Memorial State Recreation Area and North Peninsula State Park North, MacArthur Beach State Park, Mizell-Johnson State Park, St. Lucie Inlet Preserve State Park, Sebastian Inlet State Park and Stump Pass Beach State Park. 

    These beaches are some of the highest density nesting beaches in Florida; half of which are index nesting beaches.

    The Florida Park Service currently protects a total of 108 miles of natural beaches where sea turtle nesting occurs regularly. With the help of volunteers and interns, park staff conduct surveys on nesting beaches each year and report all data back to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. This survey effort requires more than 25,000 hours to collect and report nest and inventory data for all 40 FPS beaches. 

    The goal for the 2020 season is to have all 40 state parks collecting turtle nesting data using the mobile app and have the ability to generate reports for FWCC using the online database. 

    “We are indebted to the Sea Turtle Conservancy for supporting us in this effort. Long-term, standardized and high-quality nest count and productivity data are some of the main metrics used to evaluate recovery actions detailed in the loggerhead and green turtle recovery plans,” said Woodward.

    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.

  • 04/11/2020 3:51 PM | Florida State Parks Foundation (Administrator)

    It is with great sadness that the Florida State Parks Foundation has learned of the death of Florida State Representative Kristin Jacobs, board member and passionate advocate for the environment. 

    “We were privileged to have had such a dynamic and energetic board member. She will be greatly missed but her legacy will continue”, said Foundation President Gil Ziffer.

    Kristin was the Executive Director of Resiliency Florida. A well-recognized and highly regarded voice in the field of resiliency, sustainable growth and climate change policy, Jacobs also served as the State Representative in Florida’s 96th House District. For 16 years, Kristin served as Broward County Commissioner and was twice chosen to serve as Mayor.  

    In 2011, Kristin was selected to serve as Chair of the White House National Ocean Council’s Governance Coordinating Committee, which advised President Obama on local government perspectives on ocean policy.  2013 found Jacobs chosen among a select few to join President Obama at Georgetown University as he unveiled the nation’s first Climate Action Plan, and that same year President Obama appointed her to the Local and Tribal Leaders Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience.  Kristin was twice invited to testify before Congress on the Clean Water Act and Climate Change issues. She joined the Florida State Parks Foundation as a board director in 2018.

    At some point, a celebration of her life will be held at her favorite park, Lake Kissimmee State Park. Her cremated remains will be scattered into the headwaters of the Everglades, the unique wetland she did so much to protect.

  • 03/20/2020 9:06 AM | Florida State Parks Foundation (Administrator)

    The Florida State Parks Foundation today applauded the Florida Legislature for its appropriation of $140 million for Florida’s award-winning state parks, the best in the nation.

    Foundation President Gil Ziffer, said, “Florida State Parks and Trails represent one of the state’s greatest success stories. They are a major contributor to the state’s tourism industry, support thousands of jobs and pour billions of dollars into the state’s economy. At the same time, they preserve many of the jewels of our natural environment and Florida’s significant historical and cultural sites. The appropriation demonstrates our legislator’s ongoing commitment to supporting our state parks.”

    The House and Senate finally approved $37 million for park improvements, $4 million for ADA improvements and spending authority of almost $100 million. The Senate originally offered $27 million but agreed to match the House position after an intense email campaign by the Foundation. Florida Park Service staff also benefit from a much needed 3% raise for all state employees. 

    “As the acknowledged premier state park system in the nation, it is vital that the Florida Park Service receives adequate funding to ensure that our state parks continue to be the best that they can be. When you compare the $41 million that has been appropriated with the $2.6 billion in economic impact the state parks generated last year from almost 30 million visitors, it is difficult to think of a better return on the investment anywhere,” said Foundation CEO Julia Gill Woodward.

    “We are grateful for the Florida State Parks Foundation’s successful efforts to educate legislators about the value and benefits of state parks,” said Florida State Park’s Director Eric Draper.

    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.

    ###

  • 03/09/2020 8:51 AM | Florida State Parks Foundation (Administrator)

    A six-person wheelchair accessible electric tram is in service at John D. MacArthur Beach State Park thanks to a substantial grant from Florida Power & Light Company (FPL). 

    The grant to the Florida State Parks Foundation was made available through FPL’s charitable arm, the NextEra Energy Foundation.

    “This is a great way to start off 2020 which also marks the Florida Park Service’s 85thanniversary,” said Julia Gill Woodward, Florida State Parks Foundation CEO. “Both the Foundation and the Florida Park Service are committed to making our award-winning state parks more accessible and this new tram will not only lower emissions and be less noisy, but will be a great boost to visitors who use wheelchairs, enabling them to see more of the MacArthur’s incredible natural areas.”

    The MotoEV Electro Neighborhood Buddy six passenger tram has a four-kw AC motor for less maintenance and more torque to climb tough terrain. It can travel 50 miles on a single charge and costs about one penny a mile. The onboard chargers also allow the vehicle’s batteries to be topped up at any charging stations.

    “John D. MacArthur Beach State Park is known as a destination where Florida residents and visitors alike can enjoy the beaches, trails, kayaking, snorkeling, bird-watching and a host of other activities in natural surroundings, said Michael Sole, vice president, environmental services, FPL. “The electric tram is a great resource to help visitors access the beautiful park in a sustainable way.” 

    The Florida State Parks Foundation supports the work of Florida’s award-winning 175 state parks and the more than 20,000 volunteers who donate 1.2 million hours of their time annually. Florida’s parks attract 29 million visitors every year and have a statewide economic impact of more than $2.6 billion. 

  • 03/02/2020 1:36 PM | Florida State Parks Foundation (Administrator)

    The Florida State Parks Foundation is pleased to announce that Liza McFadden has been elected to the Board of Directors.

    “I am delighted to welcome Liza to the board”, said Gil Ziffer, Foundation President. “She brings a wealth of experience and expertise and will be a tremendous asset to the Foundation as we further our mission of supporting Florida’s fabulous state parks, the best in the nation.”

    McFadden is president of Liza and Partners which provides advisory services to philanthropists.  Her background includes 20-plus years serving as the chief executive officer of foundations, most recently as the president of the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy.  During her tenure, she transitioned the foundation from a traditional grant-making entity to the single largest technology provider in the United States of literacy services to low-literate adults.

    A former advisor to Governor Jeb Bush, she provided counsel on policy and program issues in education, and community and faith-based issues.  A lifelong advocate for education for all, Liza is a board member of K12, a publicly traded education management organization that provides online education for public schoolstudents.  She also serves on the national board of Reading Partners and the advisory board of Foundations, Inc.

    Liza McFadden is joining the Florida State Parks Foundation with a valued eye as a former board member of the Friends of Florida State Parks.  She shares, “the future of Florida is found by retaining the true essence of Florida.  The Florida State Parks Foundation captures that essence:  state parks are helping to save our springs today and ensuring the very best of Florida’s topography are the playground for our future generations.”  

    On a personal note, she added, “when my children were in elementary school, I served on the Friends of Florida State Parks board.  What an honor to now serve on Florida State Parks Foundation and to know my children are both majoring in environmental studies and – I believe – in no small part, due to their love of the state parks.” 

    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.

  • 01/31/2020 2:20 PM | Florida State Parks Foundation (Administrator)

    The Florida State Parks Foundation today urged legislators to fully fund Governor DeSantis’ 2020-21 budget request for Florida’s award-winning state parks.

    “It is critical that the Florida Park Service receives adequate funding to ensure that our state parks continue to be the best that they can be,” said Foundation CEO Julia Gill Woodward.

    “When you compare the $54 million that has been requested with the $2.6 billion in economic impact that the state parks generated last year, it is hard to think of a better return on the investment,” she said.

    Governor DeSantis’ FY20 budget included $54 million for fixed capital and land management and an additional $100 million for Florida Forever.

    Currently, both the Senate and House have indicated that their Florida Park Service allocations will fall short of the requested amount. The Senate has proposed $27 million and the House $37 million. 

    The House also proposes only $20 million for Florida Forever although the Senate proposes $125 million. 

    “Our state park system is acknowledged as the best in the nation,” said President Gil Ziffer. “This was recognized nationally by the award of a record fourth Gold Medal for Excellence just this past fall.” 

    “Our state parks contribute to the state’s tourism industry while preserving many of the jewels of our natural environments and Florida’s significant historical and cultural sites,” he said. 

    “State parks and trails located in small towns and rural areas are sometimes the only economic driver in the community.  Visitors coming to these parks spend dollars for lodging and in restaurants, gas stations, grocery stores, bait shops, etc. If not for state park operations these businesses might not otherwise exist,” he added.

    Last year, state parks and trails served more than 28 million visitors generating $2.6 billion in direct economic impact to local communities statewide creating more than 37,000 jobs as a result of state park operations. In addition, over $176 million was raised in the form of state sales tax.

     “If our state parks are not adequately funded, aging infrastructure cannot be replaced, urgent repairs cannot be made and the park experience for our millions of visitors will be diminished. This will have a devastating impact on both economic returns and the environment,” said Ziffer.

    The Foundation, working with the Florida Park Service, supports the work of Florida’s award-winning 175 state parks’ staff, local Friends groups and the 14,500 volunteers who donate 1.2 million hours of their time every year working in them. 

  • 01/02/2020 10:38 AM | Florida State Parks Foundation (Administrator)

    The Florida State Parks Foundation announced today that a major grant from the St. Joe Community Foundation will allow the primitive group camp at St. Andrews State Park to be restored and improved.
    Thanks to the $60,000 grant from the St. Joe Community Foundation, the camp will be restored, and major improvements made. These will include a new activities pavilion as most of the shade trees were destroyed, picnic tables, grills, safety lighting, access improvements, improvements to the restroom, and rebuilding the fire circle. The improvements will allow for longer stays and better experiences for Group Campers. 
    While at the camp, youth participate in swimming, fishing, hiking, nature observation and many additional resource-based recreational activities. For many of these children it is the first time they have slept outdoors under the stars, she added.

    Over the years, the camp has served hundreds of organized youth groups, many from local communities, but it was severely impacted by Hurricane Michael in October 2018.Hundreds of trees were lost along with many of the facilities needed to support important recreational activities.

    “The camp is important to provide youth, many of whom are increasingly removed from the natural environment, the opportunity to camp overnight in the wild outdoors of Florida, to connect with nature and to build lasting relationships with their friends and the environment”, said Julia Gill Woodward, CEO of Florida State Park Foundation.

    “We are very pleased to assist with enhancing this educational venue within St. Andrews State Park,” said April Wilkes, Executive Director of St. Joe Community Foundation, ‘’it is sure to be another one of the great little hidden gems to experience within the park for both locals and tourists to enjoy.” 

    St. Andrews State Park offers remarkable resource-based public outdoor recreation opportunities unique to its location at the confluence of St. Andrew Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. Last year it had over 650,000 visitors.

    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.

  • 12/27/2019 12:58 PM | Florida State Parks Foundation (Administrator)

    Glass bottom boats, in one form or another, have been operating at Silver Springs since 1924, possibly earlier – it’s a point argued over by historians.  What is known for sure though is that none of them have ever been accessible to people using wheelchairs.

    The boats in operation now were built in the 1960s and 70s before the accessibility and technology standards we enjoy today were in place.   These boats are a beautiful unique design but are not wheelchair accessible and it isn’t feasible to retrofit them.  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.         

    In 2013, the state assumed operation of the Silver Springs attraction which was very run down. The expense to repair and revitalize park infrastructure combined with coping with hurricane damage done in 2018 (the roof of a just built educational pavilion was seriously damaged) prohibits the Park Service from undertaking the expense of a new accessible boat on its own.

    The final costs of this important project will run between $450-$500,000. The Florida State Parks Foundation is investing along with the Felburn Foundation, Friends of Silver Springs State Park, the Florida Park Service, Lay, Pitman & Associates, and the Cape Leisure Corporation. These combined donations bring about three quarters of the total amount needed.

    Please help fill the gap with your own donation.  Grassroots support from individuals and small businesses can make or break a project. 

    No one should get left behind on the dock just because they can’t walk.

    Please, make your donation here. And be sure to specify Glass Bottom Boat Project.

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