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  • 01/07/2022 8:00 AM | Lauren Kelly-Manders (Administrator)


    FORT LAUDERDALE – Representative Anika T. Omphroy, who represents District 95, visited Hugh Taylor Birch State Park in Fort Lauderdale yesterday as a guest of the Florida State Parks Foundation and the Florida Park Service.

    The visit, ahead of this year’s Legislative Session, was to brief Representative Omphroy about new developments at the park and to discuss issues affecting all of Florida’s 175 award-winning parks and trails. Representative Omphroy is a member of the House Appropriations Committee and the Democrat Ranking Member of the Agricultural and Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee.

    She has long been a champion of the environment with a special interest in preventing further development west into the Everglades and addressing the threat of saltwater intrusion into the South Florida aquifer.


    “We appreciate Representative Omphroy spending time at Hugh Taylor Birch State Park and for her commitment to our state parks and trails,” said Florida State Parks Foundation CEO Julia Gill Woodward.

    Also representing the Florida Park Service were Florida Park Service Acting Director, Chuck Hatcher, District 5 Bureau Chief Kevin Jones, Foundation Board Member Jose Romano and Park Manager LeAnn Hinson.

    “Our state parks form the cornerstone of biodiversity conservation and deliver invaluable cultural, economic and social benefits to our state. That is why my commitment to preserving and protecting Florida’s natural heritage is unwavering," said State Representative Anika T. Omphroy.

    “Our parks are not only natural treasures, but they are also economic generators as well. Our award-winning state parks attract 24 million visitors from around the world, have an economic impact to the state of $2.2 billion and support more than 31,000 jobs,” Woodward said.

    The 175-acre Hugh Taylor Birch State Park attracts more than 285,000 visitors a year and generates more than $25.6 million to the state’s economy and supports 359 local jobs. 

    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.

  • 01/05/2022 8:00 AM | Lauren Kelly-Manders (Administrator)

    A grant from the William G. & Marie Selby Foundation will help purchase an all-terrain wheelchair and trailer for use by visitors to Myakka River State Park, south of Sarasota.

    “The Florida State Parks Foundation is thrilled to utilize this grant to purchase this special wheelchair that enables visitors who use mobility devices to fully experience the scenic beauty of Myakka River State Park,” said Foundation President Tammy Gustafson

    “The $2,300 grant will go towards existing funds for the purchase of the all-terrain chair as well as a trailer to transport it, both of which will be available free of charge upon visitor request,” she said.

    Located about 20 miles from downtown Sarasota, Myakka River State Park is one of oldest and largest parks in the award-winning Florida state park system, covering more than 37,000 acres.

    “The Selby Foundation is pleased to be a partner on this very important project that will increase accessibility for so many to enjoy the beauty and joy of nature”, said Carol Butera, President/CEO of The William G. and Marie Selby Foundation.

    The Florida State Parks 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.

  • 12/14/2021 8:00 AM | Lauren Kelly-Manders (Administrator)

    The Florida State Parks Foundation recently celebrated a year full of tremendous achievements and looked ahead to 2022 during President Tammy Gustafson’s end-of-year message to members. 

    “As we approach the end of the year, it is good to reflect on all the incredible accomplishments we have achieved together to make our award-winning Florida State Parks even better,” Gustafson said. “We look forward, with your help, to even greater things in 2022.”

    The Foundation started 2021 with a huge success by introducing a bill to establish a Florida State Park specialty license to benefit park projects, and then getting overwhelming bipartisan legislative support to get it approved. Impressively, the license plate cleared its 3,000-preorder threshold in less than 34 days, has gone into production and will be available in early 2022.  

    “The Foundation is truly fortunate to have the support of the many thousands of folks who recognize the importance of our fabulous state parks and the need to protect and preserve them for generations to come,” Gustafson said. “The impact you have cannot be overstated. Your generosity has enabled the Foundation to make significant accomplishments in its mission of protecting, preserving, sustaining and growing our Florida State Parks.”

    Gustafson went on to recognize some of the Foundation’s most significant milestones from the last year:

    “Your generosity helped us fund, build and launch the first-ever wheelchair accessible glass bottom boat at Silver Springs State Park. In keeping with the tradition of naming the glass-bottom boats at Silver Springs after Seminole tribal chiefs, the new boat is named Chief Potackee – Betty Mae Tiger Jumper, after the only woman to serve as chief of the Seminole Tribe of Florida.

    “Thanks to you, we have improved accessibility in our parks through funding a new accessible playground at Edward Ball Wakulla Springs State Park, breaking ground on the first phase of an accessible fishing pier at Oscar Scherer State Park and providing beach-accessible wheelchairs to every single coastal state park.

    “Your continuing largesse has improved wildlife care and conservation through expanding resources for sea turtle needs at Sebastian Inlet State Park and John D. MacArthur Beach State Park, provided habitat maintenance for the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker at St. Sebastian River Preserve State Park, expanded manatee care at Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park and provided funding for coral reef research at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park.

    “You have helped improve the ability to share our historical and cultural resources through the funding of the Flight to Freedom Trail at Fort Mose Historic State Park, telling the story of the first freed Black settlement in the precolonial United States and also commemorating two civil rights heroes and the park’s namesakes at the Dr. Von D. Mizell – Eula Johnson State Park, who will finally have their stories told through interpretive signage. 

    “You have helped make our parks even greener by funding longleaf pine restoration work through our Plant a Pine program and providing electric-accessible trams at Hugh Taylor Birch State Park and Topsail Hill Preserve State Park.

    “And, at the Florida State Parks Foundation, we have increased our membership to record levels. We have funded the training of dozens of park rangers this year and advocated for the most robust parks budget in recent history.

    “Through the work of many, much has been accomplished. Together, we will continue to ensure that Florida’s State Parks remain the best in the nation and a treasure that we can all be proud of.”

    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.

  • 12/10/2021 10:43 AM | Lauren Kelly-Manders (Administrator)

    The Florida State Parks Foundation welcomed the Governor’s recommendation to fully fund Florida’s award-winning state parks.

    “Florida’s award-winning state parks protect our most precious natural and cultural resources as well as providing a safe haven for people to recreate and exercise,” said Tammy Gustafson, Foundation President.

    "We are delighted that the Governor in his proposed budget released yesterday has allocated $51.7 million for the Florida Park Service” she said.

    $45 million has been allocated for state park facility improvements and $6.7 million for Billy Joe Rish State Park, which includes additional facilities, repairs and renovations to existing facilities and the removal of access barriers for persons with disabilities. In addition, $52 million has been allocated for springs restoration and $100 million from the Florida Forever program for land acquisition. Almost $1 billion has also been earmarked to continue Everglades restoration.

    Florida State Parks 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.

    “As the acknowledged premier state park system in the nation, it is vital that Florida State Parks receive full funding. When comparing the $51.7 million that has been provided in the budget with the $2.6 billion in economic impact the state parks generated last year from nearly 30 million visitors, it is difficult to think of a better return on the investment anywhere,” she said.

    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.

  • 11/23/2021 2:43 PM | Lauren Kelly-Manders (Administrator)

    The Florida State Parks Foundation announced today that the new wheelchair accessible glass bottom boat at Silver Springs State Park has been named as one of the ten most significant boats of 2021.

    The top ten list, compiled by WorkBoat magazine, will be used to select the Boat of the Year on Wednesday, Dec. 1, the first day of the 2021 International WorkBoat Show in New Orleans.

    The Florida State Parks Foundation commissioned Lay, Pitman & Associates Naval Architects to design the 37-foot boat, which includes a flat deck and spacious aisles providing easy and convenient access for wheelchairs. It is also equipped with an induction-loop system that assists passengers using hearing aids to listen to the captain's narration. 

    This boat is significant in many ways, said Paula Russo, former Foundation president, who oversaw the vessel’s design and construction. Although glass bottom boat tours have been operating at Silver Springs since 1870 none of the vessels was able to accommodate wheelchairs and it was not possible to retrofit them, so an entirely new boat was needed. The vessel was built by St. Johns Ship Building in Palatka using design principles that give universal access to all people.

    The totally electric glass bottom boat was donated to the Florida Park Service in June. It can carry up to 28 passengers and two crew members, and has a 12" draft. The boat is powered by twin 20-hp Elco electric outboards with four Lithionics 7.5 kW lithium-ion batteries. Ship’s service power comes from two Lithionics lithium-ion 7.5-kW batteries.

    In keeping with the tradition of naming the glass-bottom boats at Silver Springs after Seminole tribal chiefs, the new boat is named Chief Potackee – Betty Mae Tiger Jumper, after the only woman to serve as chief of the Seminole Tribe of Florida. 

    In addition to the Foundation, a consortium of public and private partners helped fund the boat, including the Fish & Wildlife Foundation of Florida, the Felburn Foundation, the Delores Barr Weaver Legacy Fund, the Florida Park Service, Friends of Silver Springs State Park and Cape Leisure. 

    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.

  • 11/22/2021 3:00 PM | Lauren Kelly-Manders (Administrator)

    The Florida State Parks Foundation welcomes today’s announcement that Chuck Hatcher has been named Acting Director of the Division of Recreation and Parks.

    Chuck takes over from Eric Draper, who retired as Director of the Division earlier this month after four years in the position. 

    “The Foundation is delighted that Chuck Hatcher has been named Acting Director,” said Foundation President Tammy Gustafson. “We have worked closely with Chuck and the award-winning Florida Park Service’s senior management team for many years. Together we have secured many memorable successes and we look forward to achieving even greater things in the future.”

    Chuck joined the Department of Environmental Protection in March 2016 as Assistant Director of Field Operations for the Division of Recreation and Parks. Prior to that, he served for a decade as Director of Parks and Recreation in Jackson County, Florida, where he received numerous awards including the Excellence in Leadership Award presented by the Jackson County Chamber of Commerce.

  • 11/16/2021 8:00 AM | Lauren Kelly-Manders (Administrator)

    The Florida State Parks Foundation today announced a partnership with the Ivanhoe Park Brewing Company and a new collaboration beer, Lake Hopp’r Florida Lager.

    As part of the partnership Ivanhoe Park Brewing Company, an independent craft brewery and tasting room in Orlando, is brewing a collaboration beer, Lake Hopp’r Florida Lager, with a portion of proceeds benefiting the Foundation, as well as offering corporate volunteering at the local Florida State Parks.

    “Ivanhoe Park Brewing Co. continues to carry on our Commitment to Community,” CEO and Founder, Glenn Closson said. “Working with Florida State Parks Foundation, we are not only excited to be able to offer additional funds, but also our time to really help their mission and volunteering to assist in projects at the Florida State Parks.”  

    Their next corporate volunteer day will be at Lake Louisa State Park on November 21, he said.

    “We are excited to enter into this partnership with Ivanhoe Park Brewing which will benefit our fabulous award-winning state parks,” said Foundation CEO Julia Gill Woodward. “We are always delighted to work with corporate partners like Ivanhoe Park Brewing who share our commitment to preserving and protecting our state parks.”

    Located in Ivanhoe Village, one of Orlando’s Main Street districts, the brewery has been open since 2018 and entered distribution later that year in Central Florida with City Beverages.  That distribution partnership has grown and allowed Ivanhoe Park Brewing Co. to work with Wayne Densch, Inc and Daytona Beverages to expand their market reach. They are looking to add more distributors in the first quarter of 2022.

    This new partnership with the Florida State Parks Foundation will allow Ivanhoe Park Brewing Co. to brew an amazing Florida Lager that will be easy drinking and 4% ABV to be enjoyed throughout the State of Florida.

    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.

  • 11/09/2021 10:15 AM | Lauren Kelly-Manders (Administrator)

    The Florida State Parks Foundation has announced that presales of the Florida State Parks specialty license plate have already soared past the 3,000-sale target needed for the plate to go into production.

    Those who preordered the plate will be able to receive their plate in early-spring 2022. Florida State Parks specialty license plates are still available for purchase online, and $25 from each plate sold will directly benefit the Florida State Parks Foundation.

    “This is a fantastic achievement and shows just how popular our state parks are and why people want to support them in this way,” said Foundation President Tammy Gustafson.

    “We’re pleased to have met our presale goal so quickly,” said Eric Draper, Director of the Florida Park Service. “Not only are we grateful for this new fundraising opportunity, but we’re also excited to see people showing off their Florida State Parks pride on their vehicles.”

    The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles requires that all organizations wishing to introduce a new specialty license plate presell 3,000 units before they begin production. The DMW allows two years to meet this goal. The Florida State Parks specialty plate reached 3,000 presales in just 34 days.   

    “We not only hit our 3,000 target in just one month, we have flown past it,” Gustafson said. “Funds from the sale of the Florida State Parks license plate will provide significant and ongoing funding to enable us to protect and preserve our award-winning park system.”

    The Florida State Parks 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.

  • 11/08/2021 8:00 AM | Lauren Kelly-Manders (Administrator)

    The Florida State Parks Foundation announced a series of interpretive birding panels at Sebastian Inlet State Park on Saturday during a dedication ceremony in honor of Bonnie Lizer, who loved both the park and birding.

    “Bonnie Lizer passed away in June 2019, at the age of 82, in Indialantic, Florida, and she very generously left a quarter of her estate, more than $1.3 million, to the Foundation. Bonnie loved Sebastian Inlet State Park and birding was her favorite pastime, so this is a very fitting and lasting tribute,” said Foundation President Tammy Gustafson.

    “In her memory, a series of interpretive panels has been created to educate visitors about bird identification, bird habitat protection and appropriate bird observation techniques in the park,” she said. “A plaque to commemorate Bonnie’s generosity was also unveiled.”

    Sebastian Inlet State Park is one of Florida’s most visited parks with over 760,000 visitors a year. Although known as a fishing and surfer’s paradise, this 24-hour park is also part of the Great Florida Birding and Wildlife Trail, and offers many special wildlife programs. It is a stopover for many migratory birds and 225 different bird species have been recorded there. 

    The interpretive panels will assist visitors in identifying common migratory and resident bird species. Visitors will also learn about bird migratory patterns, feeding and nesting requirements, habitat, and life cycles, she said.

    They will feature tactile and interactive elements for visitors of all ages and will include QR codes that will link visitors to additional information that can be viewed in the park or once they return home. Visitors will also learn about the park’s estuary ecosystem and its importance to a variety of bird species. 

    The Florida State Parks 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.

  • 10/21/2021 8:08 AM | Lauren Kelly-Manders (Administrator)

    The Florida State Parks Foundation has announced its Board Officers for 2021-2022 to provide critical leadership to ensure the organization’s continued growth and success.

    Officers elected at yesterday’s annual meeting are Tammy Gustafson, Board President; Kathleen Brennan, President Elect; Gil Ziffer, Immediate Past President; Audrine Finnerty, Treasurer; and Emily Lewis, Secretary.

    “I am delighted to announce our new board officers”, said Julia Gill Woodward, Foundation CEO. “These individuals bring a wealth of experience and expertise in their fields and will be tremendous assets to the Foundation as we further our mission of supporting Florida’s fabulous award-winning state parks, the best in the nation.”

    Tammy Gustafson is a senior executive at Universal Orlando responsible for Sales Integration across the global sales divisions and working with international teams located in Latin America and the UK. She joined Universal Orlando in September of 1997 as part of the Universal Studios Marketing team and was responsible for building the Universal Studios Florida brand on a global basis- growing to three theme parks, a night-time entertainment complex and eight onsite resorts.

    Appointed by the Governor’s office to the Florida Commission on Tourism, Gustafson served as President of the VISIT FLORIDA Board of Directors from 2014-15 and has been on the board since 2005. She currently serves on the Florida Council of Tourism Leaders. She has also served on the board for the Kissimmee/Osceola County Chamber of Commerce/Osceola Resort Area Council and served as a Past President and Treasurer of the Florida State Parks Foundation. Gustafson brings years of experience and extensive travel industry knowledge to these organizations and has been a part of Leadership Florida, Leadership Orlando, the Greater Orlando Sports Commission and the Central Florida Chapter of the American Marketing Association.

    “Throughout its history, the Florida State Parks greatest strength has been its volunteers. I am honored to be asked to serve in this capacity,” said Tammy Gustafson, Foundation President. “The best and brightest minds are coming together to help guide and preserve the Real Florida. It is an exciting time for the Foundation as we work toward the Strategic Goals for the coming year.”

    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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