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  • 06/23/2016 2:54 PM | Florida State Parks Foundation (Administrator)

    Boy Scout Troop 895 and leader, Steve Kamm, visited Ichetucknee Springs State Park and was so impressed with the park experience that the troop was inspired to make an on-line donation to the Friends of Florida State Parks asking the money to be used to benefit Ichetucknee.  His note accompanying the donation:

     "Our troop just visited Ichetucknee Springs and had a great time.  We hope this helps so others can enjoy the Springs as well."


    At the request of park staff the money was used to purchase 10 Bushnell binoculars and plastic storage bins to keep them safely housed when not in use.

    There is no doubt that equipment, such as binoculars, enhances the learning experience and can be the difference between a “ho-hum” or an engaging “WOW” experience.  Thank you, Troop 895!

    You can make a difference too by donating here and be sure to designate Yellow Buses in the Parks Project


  • 06/23/2016 2:53 PM | Florida State Parks Foundation (Administrator)

    By Mark Milligan, President, F4 Tech

    For – Friends of Florida State Parks Newsletter

    June 17, 2016

    There is no question that Florida’s State Parks system is among the very best in the nation, winning the National Gold Medal Award for Excellence in Park Management an unprecedented three times. Florida’s parks are a significant attraction, showcasing The Real Florida and providing a multitude of recreational opportunities that invite millions of visitors each year.

    Florida’s state parks and trails welcomed more than 31 million visitors during fiscal year 2014-2015 -- a 15 percent increase over the previous fiscal year. The overall direct impact to the state’s economy was more than $2.8 billion, which is an impressive 40 percent increase over the previous time period.

    Tourism numbers continue to break records in the Sunshine State over the past several years. The latest numbers provided by VISIT FLORIDA show that 29.8 million visitors traveled to Florida during the first quarter of 2016, which is a 4.8 percent increase over the same period in 2015. VISIT FLORIDA is also projecting this trend will continue throughout 2016, with tourism reaching a record 115 million visitors.

    With so many visitors to our fine state, and by logical extension to our state parks and trails, it is important that proper care and management of the diverse lands and habitats found in Florida State Parks remain a priority. The Department of Environmental Protection’s Florida Park Service is implementing a Long Term Planning and Restoration Initiative to help achieve its goal of restoring more land into a more natural, less labor-intensive maintenance condition

    This initiative is made possible by the record funding for land management included in the Florida First Budget signed by Governor Scott and the Florida Legislature. As part of this initiative, Florida State Parks staff is working to enhance current land management practices and use more sophisticated technology, data and tools to better manage and protect lands not just now, but long into the future.  

    This approach was referred to in the November 2015 version of this newsletter (Friends of Florida State Parks) and was headlined with an article entitled “Green for Green”. The article stated that “We need to be investing both to manage and maintain existing Florida’s public lands so that they continue to be the nation’s showcase of what a state park system should be…”.

    To help move forward with this endeavor and to enhance efforts underway by parks biologists and staff, the park service is partnering with F4 Tech, an industry leader in natural resource management. Below is a brief summary of the kinds of tasks that are currently underway:

    • ·         Long-Term Planning – Florida State Parks is utilizing F4 Tech to develop an ecosystem-scoring guide to help the park service better direct the optimum allocation of resources and tasks for environmental management and restoration. F4 is assisting by mapping and inventorying above-ground vegetation on hundreds of thousands of acres of state park lands, and compiling this data for park service staff.
    • ·         Restoration – Florida State Parks and F4 Tech are currently partnering on 20 projects covering approximately 50,000 acres across 15 state parks and DEP’s Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve.  These projects primarily consist of invasive/exotic species control, but also include prescribed burning, timber thinning and harvests for restorative purposes and ecosystem restoration projects. F4’s team may soon be helping parks staff implement an additional 70 projects covering another 50,000 plus acres and 40 parks in the near future.

    As stated in the previously mentioned Green for Green article, there is a great need to protect and restore our state park lands, and by making significant, yet wise investments in data collection and long-term planning we are doing just that. The Florida Park Service is proud to partner with F4 Tech and other cooperators, including Natural Resource Planning Services, Atkins, Nobles Consulting Group and the University of Florida to ensure that Florida’s state parks remain the best in the nation and that they continue to protect and showcase The Real Florida for our future generations. 


  • 06/22/2016 10:00 AM | Deleted user

    As one of the top vacation destinations in the U.S., beach lovers naturally flock to Florida. However, a getaway doesn't have to cost thousands of dollars. Staying in a Florida vacation rental saves tourists hundreds, even thousands of dollars on vacation accommodations. Guests can easily book a more private and secure vacation rental in Florida for a third of the price of staying in a crowded hotel – all while enjoying proximity to free things to do, helping travelers save even more money.



    In the northwest Florida panhandle, top beach destinations offer affordable vacation rental homes and easy access to attractions and entertainment. Panama City Beach condo rentals are located on the Gulf within walking distance to several things to do and restaurants, saving travelers money on car rentals and gas costs. Along scenic Highway 30A, guests can choose between dozens of South Walton vacation rentals spread throughout 16 unique beach communities. Visitors can even rent a bike and ride through the entire area on the 30A bike trail. Not only does this provide low-cost transportation options; it's also a unique way to see the area and meet locals. Next door to South Walton sits the “world's luckiest fishing village,” also known as Destin. Guests can find a variety of Destin rentals in all sizes and styles located near fishing hot spots and other family-friendly activities.

    Heading south into mid-Florida, travelers will find Clearwater and St. Petersburg – both of which are located outside the Tampa area and feature free outdoor recreation options and attractions. Clearwater vacation condos provide proximity to popular landmarks such as Pier 60, which hosts free live entertainment and is a well-known place to watch famous Florida sunsets. Located in the Tampa Bay, St. Petersburg is known for its artsy vibe, attracting arts and culture lovers of all ages. This area also hosts Gasparilla season, one of the most popular events in the Tampa area. St. Petersburg also offers vacation homes in Madeira Beach and Treasure Island, known as a secret spot for sunsets and water adventures.

    South Florida houses popular getaways such as Miami and the Upper Florida Keys. Guests who vacation in Miami have access to hundreds of free events, delicious restaurants and popular nightlife venues. Additionally, many South Miami vacation rentals are located on golf resorts, providing easy access to challenging greens and all-in-one resort accommodations. Only an hour's drive from Miami International Airport sits the Upper Florida Keys and Key Largo, two top snorkeling spots in Florida. Travelers who book a Key Largo vacation rental have access to the area's free events, walkable neighborhoods and laid-back island lifestyle. With so many affordable accommodations and free things to do, it's no wonder Florida is the go-to spot for beach vacations and relaxing getaways.

  • 06/20/2016 9:00 AM | Deleted user

    June is National Camping Month!

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    Florida's state park system is one of the largest in the country, with 174 parks, trails and historic sites spanning nearly 800,000 acres and 100 miles of sandy white beach offering year-around outdoor activities for all ages.

    June is National Camping Month and there is no better way to honor the great outdoors than pitching a tent, telling stories around the campfire under the starlight and waking up to a beautiful Florida sunrise. 

    If you and your family are looking for a great place to enjoy a family vacation or to camp for the weekend, make sure to visit ReserveAmerica and use the "camping this weekend" feature to see what's available.

    From RV camping to traditional tent camping, our campgrounds, recreation opportunities and natural beauty will not disappoint. Pack up your tent and your sleeping bag, and head over to one (or all) of your favorite camping spots at Florida State Parks.

  • 06/15/2016 9:00 AM | Deleted user

    The recreational harvest of snook in Atlantic state and federal waters will close on June 1.

    Snook is also closed for harvest in Gulf of Mexico state and federal waters, including Everglades National Park and Monroe County, through Aug. 31, reopening Sept. 1.

    Unique to the region, snook are one of the many reasons Florida is the Fishing Capital of the World. Seasonal harvest closures help conserve Florida’s valuable snook populations and improve the fishery for the future.

    Snook can be caught and released during the closed season, but anglers should use proper handling methods to ensure the species’ abundance for anglers today and generations to come. To learn more and see a video about catch and release fishing and the best way to handle a fish, visit MyFWC.com/Fishing and click on “Saltwater” then “Recreational Regulations” and “Fish Handling.”

    Anglers can report their catch on the Snook & Gamefish Foundation’s website at Snookfoundation.org by clicking on the “Angler Action” link in the bar at the top of the page.


    Learn more about recreational fishing at MyFWC.com/Fishing by clicking on “Saltwater” and “Recreational Regulations.”


  • 06/10/2016 9:30 AM | Deleted user

    TS Colin Nick Wiley

    FWC monitoring Tropical Storm Colin’s impacts on sea turtle nests

     

    In the aftermath of Tropical Storm Colin, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is assessing damage to sea turtle nests along Florida’s coasts. High water from the storm flooded many nests from Northwest Florida through the Southwest Gulf Coast.

    Today, FWC Executive Director Nick Wiley visited St. George Island, one of the areas where sea turtle nests were most impacted by the storm.  “This is a top priority for the agency,” said Wiley. “We want Florida’s sea turtles to have another successful nesting season and we will continue to work with FWC’s Marine Turtle Permit Holders to help make that happen.”

    Sea turtles have a natural nesting strategy that accommodates for natural events like storms.  The FWC will be coordinating with FWC Marine Turtle Permit Holders on affected beaches to determine the level of impact on the nests.

    FWC Marine Turtle Permit holders are volunteers who are permitted to monitor and observe Florida turtle nesting sites. Damaged nests will be re-marked so that Permit Holders can determine if they hatch.

     

    People can help ensure the survival of remaining and future nests by following these guidelines:

    • Clear the way at the end of the day – remove beach furniture and other objects before nightfall.
    • Fill in holes dug in the sand at the end of the day.
    • Do not disturb nesting females or hatchlings observed on the beach. If you see nesting females or hatchlings that are in distress, contact the FWC’s Wildlife Alert Hotline at (888) 404-3922(FWCC) or *FWC.
    • Make sure beachfront lighting is wildlife friendly by keeping lights low (wattage and mounting height), long (wavelength – amber or red), and shielded so the light is not directly visible from the beach.
    • Turn off lights on beachfront properties when not in use.

    Support Florida’s sea turtles by purchasing the “Helping Sea Turtles Survive” license tag at BuyaPlate.com. Tag funds go toward sea turtle research, rescue and conservation efforts. People also can donate $5 and receive an FWC sea turtle decal. For decals or to learn more about sea turtles, go to MyFWC.com/SeaTurtle.

    Learn about Florida’s five sea turtle species at MyFWC.com/SeaTurtle.


  • 06/08/2016 10:00 AM | Deleted user

    From: The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

    The recreational harvest of greater amberjack and gray triggerfish in Gulf of Mexico state waters (shore to 9 nautical miles) closes June 1 and will remain closed through July 31, reopening Aug. 1.

    In federal Gulf waters, greater amberjack and gray triggerfish will also be closed June 1 through July 31.

    Seasonal harvest closures help conserve Florida’s valuable greater amberjack and gray triggerfish populations and improve these fisheries for the future.

    Learn more about recreational fishing at MyFWC.com/Fishing by clicking on “Saltwater” and “Recreational Regulations.”


  • 04/07/2016 10:02 AM | Florida State Parks Foundation (Administrator)

    ACCESS FOR ALL MEETS INTERPRETATION AT WEKIWA SPRINGS

     

    Posted: 3/11/2016 | By: Park Ranger Meghan Lauer

    APOPKA, Fla. - On Tuesday, February 9, Park Ranger Meghan Lauer at Wekiwa Springs State Park presented a new interpretive and accessible program called “Birds of Wekiwa Springs: A Multisensory Experience" for a group of students with blindness and low vision from central Florida. Park Ranger Lauer independently researched, planned and developed this unique accessible program.

    The program featured an hour-long classroom component comprised of a presentation and bird calls, as well as two-dimensional models of bird skulls, raptor talons, track castings, bird feet molds and a taxidermied wood duck for students to touch. Additionally, students were provided braille versions of the presentation and birding list. A field experience followed, complete with a 30-minute tram tour throughout sandhill and scrub habitat where many bird species were heard and celebrated.

    Orange Audubon Society educated the students regarding backyard birding recruitment as well as bird identification in the field. This well-received program will be offered several times throughout the year, coinciding with birds migrating through the park. 

    For information about ongoing events at Wekiwa Springs State Park, click here.


  • 03/18/2016 3:46 PM | Florida State Parks Foundation (Administrator)

    Press Release

    For Immediate Release

    St. Joe Grant enables new environmental and wildlife programs

    Friends of Florida State Parks (FFSP) has received a grant of $8,200 from the St. Joe Community Foundation for new environmental and wildlife programs at Camp Helen and Eden Garden State Parks.

    FFSP is the statewide, volunteer, nonprofit organization that supports all the volunteer groups that work with Florida’s 174 award winning state parks and trails. The grants were awarded for FFSP’s Yellow Buses in the Parks program.

     

    FFSP believes it is vital for children to understand how important the natural environment is and to establish a solid foundation for environmental stewardship in the next generation.   Florida State Parks offer excellent programs that school children can take advantage of but they are often unable to attend due to lack of funding.  The FFSP Yellow Buses in the Parks program addresses the challenges that schools and other organizations (after school programs, scouts and other group organizations for elementary children) may have funding transportation, and provides tools to make the experience as interesting and educational as possible. 

    Camp Helen and Eden Gardens State Parks will be offering new wildlife and environmental education programs that include the STEM based LIFE (Learning in Florida Environments) program as well as hands on Wildlife programs (Sea Turtles, Shore Birds, Owls, Bears, Frogs, Bees, Bats, Butterflies & Aquatic Critters), Hiking & Tracking programs, and a Marine Debris program that teaches the effects of pollution on the marine environment.

    The St. Joe Community Foundation funding allows FFSP to purchase equipment for the approximately 2,500 children who will take advantage of these programs each year.  


    These programs include Sea Turtles, which describes the basic life cycle of sea turtles and special adaptations necessary for surviving in different habitats. It can be easily adapted for all ages – from grade 2 to adults. The Shore Birds program, also designed for all ages, studies the many ways birds adapt to different habitats and food sources. What a Hoot studies how owls are adapted to being active at night and students are taught how to tell what these nocturnal hunters have been eating.

    Other programs include learning about bears, bees, bats and butterflies, how to conduct scientific experiments to investigate all the creatures living in ponds, and how to tackle the growing problem of marine debris and the effect it has on the environment.

    “We are enormously grateful for the generosity of the St. Joe Community Foundation is making this funding available to allow these very worthwhile educational and environmental projects to go ahead. As a result, thousands of schoolchildren will learn more about the environment and how they can preserve and protect it,” said Don Philpott, FFSP President.

    Ends.


    For more information contact:

    FFSP - Don Philpott 

    St. Joe Community Foundation -


  • 01/28/2016 1:03 PM | Florida State Parks Foundation (Administrator)

    Friends of Florida State Parks has three main missions – to protect and preserve our award winning state parks; to make them as accessible as possible to all; and to promote environmental education.

    It is the last of these missions that I would like to focus on.  For many years, Friends groups and volunteers have assisted rangers in providing environmental programs for visitors and especially local schools. A day in the park, while still great fun, does provide a very real learning experience and thousands of schoolchildren have benefited from them.  Programs are tailored to meet each school’s particular core curriculum needs and conform to the STEM initiative.

    STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics and is a nationwide effort to encourage students to take an interest in these subjects at an early age. Now we have a new acronym – LIFE – and it signals another exciting step in FFSP’s development and commitment to our parks and environmental learning.

    LIFE stands for Learning In Florida’s Environment and FFSP aims to make every state park an open air LIFE lab and classroom and utilized by all the schools around it.

    The LIFE program is a statewide science-based educational program developed by the Department of Environmental Protection which Friends of Florida State Parks has agreed to take over. We are committed to maintaining the programs in those parks already offering it and providing training so that other parks can become LIFE partners as well.

    The goal is to increase student achievement in science, strengthen teacher capacity for inquiry-based instruction, increase underrepresented groups in the STEM fields, and increase access to and stewardship of state parks.

    We aim to build long-term partnerships with schools and teachers to ensure the programs continue. We will promote the use of real-world technology and promote physical activity. Children will experience hands on inquiry-based learning and multiple field experiences and the programs will provide real-world opportunities for students to integrate a number of subjects.

    The LIFE program has been running successfully in a small number of state parks. Now begins the task of growing that number by steadily expanding the program throughout Florida. It will take time, a lot of organization and a significant amount of funding but it is a goal worth chasing.

    The LIFE program could help Florida produce new generations of scientists, engineers and mathematicians and at the same time, introduce thousands of schoolchildren to the wonders of our fabulous state parks.


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