• 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.

  • 01/20/2016 12:26 PM | Florida State Parks Foundation (Administrator)

    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Jan. 20, 2016

    Contact: DEP Press Office


    ~Winning photo taken at Big Talbot Island State Park in Jacksonville~

    Image: three photos

    TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s Florida Park Service and the Friends of Florida State Parks Inc. are pleased to congratulate the winners of the 2015 Annual Florida State Parks Photo Contest.

    ·          First place winner Lisa Westberry photographed Boneyard and Beach Sunrise at Big Talbot Island State Park in Jacksonville.

    ·          There was a four-way tie for the next winner.

    o    Tranquil Sunset was photographed by Lyrica Bonfour at Bahia Honda State Park in Big Pine Key.

    o    Sailboats Race toward Sunset was photographed by Celeste McWilliams at Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park in Key West.

    o    Another Point of View was photographed by Jennifer Thayer at Highlands Hammock State Park in Sebring.

    o    North Jetty was photographed by Richard Vogel at Sebastian Inlet State Park in Melbourne Beach.

    “Each year, we receive amazing photos taken at Florida’s state parks and state trails. Each one inspires us to bring a camera along for our visits to Florida’s incredible natural and cultural resources. Congratulations to the winners,” said Donald Forgione, Director of the Florida Park Service. 

    Annual photo contest winners are selected from the 12 monthly photo contest winners throughout 2015 selected by visitors to The photographs were evaluated by professional photographers John Moran, Kevin Kolczynski and Lynn Berreitter to determine the top three winners. A Florida State Parks Family Annual Entrance Pass will be presented to the first place winner. The four photographers in the next position will be presented an Individual Annual Entrance Pass.

    The Florida State Parks and State Trails Photo Contest allows visitors to share photos taken during their experiences at state parks and on state trails. Register and submit your favorite photos for a chance to win entrance passes to visit Florida’s state parks. Visit the Photo Contest website for rules and details.



    Link at:

  • 11/30/2015 3:54 PM | Florida State Parks Foundation (Administrator)

    "Hello Josh,

    Thank you so much for being so accommodating last week assisting my friend with the floating wheel chair at SGI (St. George Island). You and your staff are absolutely wonderful and genuinely helpful! As you can see in the photos, Gerri was overjoyed by the experience! She is originally from NYC and has lived here for 10 years without seeing the beach. She cried when she saw it from the pavilion and again when she began floating in the water. It was a magical day! Your facility and professional demeanor made a memorable "girls trip" to the beach.

    Thank you so much!!"

    Help people with mobility impairments have experiences others take for granted. Please donate to the Access For All Campaign to help fund a floating beach wheelchair for Hugh Taylor Birch State Park.

  • 11/20/2015 10:13 AM | Florida State Parks Foundation (Administrator)

    Green for Green

    There has been a lot of discussion recently about Florida’s State Parks. There have been calls for them to become self-sufficient and some politicians have openly said we have too much public land and should consider selling some of it.

    Throughout this debate, a number of important issues have not been discussed so I would like to take a little time here to mention them because I think they are critical.

    The first question we all have to ask is “Why do we have state parks in the first place?” State parks exist to protect and preserve a particular location because of its natural beauty, flora and fauna, historic and cultural interest, or recreational potential. That is the reason we have state parks and that is why we need to protect and preserve them. The Florida Park Service with limited resources does a fantastic job.


    However, while the state parks are a fabulous treasure that, hopefully, will be enjoyed by generations to come they are also a huge revenue earner for the state – and that is something that is often by many people.


    Florida’s parks are likely to attract a record 30 million plus visitors this year. To put that in perspective, Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom, the world’s most popular theme park, had 18.6 million visitors in 2014 and Florence, one of Italy’s most historic and beautiful cities, attracted just 10 million visitors.


    Visitors are great because visitors spend money. Visitors to Florida’s state parks have an economic impact of more than $2 billion a year. That means they spend that much money in local businesses – hotels, restaurants, stores and attractions and so on. Hundreds of millions of dollars also go into the local economy through sales taxes.


    Another bonus is that canoe rentals, boat rides, concessions and a host of other park-related activities create about 20,000 jobs. It should also be mentioned that our state parks are already around 80 percent self-sufficient and they become more so every year.


    People need somewhere to go to enjoy the great outdoors and explore the real Florida. The state’s population has mushroomed from 15.9 million in 2000 to 20 million in 2015. This growth is likely to continue for decades. This means that more land will be needed to satisfy the demand for residential and commercial expansion and more land will also be needed for people to recreate in.



    The bottom line is that investment in our parks is good for Florida’s economy. This is best summed up by the phrase ‘Green for Green’ – more public land equals more visitors spending more money.


    We need to be investing both scenarios in order 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 and we need to invest in new land acquisitions to meet the growing demands for more open spaces from a rapidly expanding population.


    We need to protect and preserve our state park system and by investing in it, we can do just that. More importantly, that investment stimulates spending which benefits Florida’s economy. At the moment, Tallahassee provides around $80 million a year to support the parks. In return, it gets over $2 billion.

    I think that is an amazing return on investment. Therefore, from now on, when we talk about our state parks let us remember ‘Green for Green’ – invest more get more - a win-win for everyone.



  • 11/13/2015 11:49 AM | Florida State Parks Foundation (Administrator)



    Wide shot of a group of participants, volunteers, park employees and visitors at the 4th annual Wounded Warrior Surf Day at Fort Pierce Inlet State Park on Sept. 18, 2015
    A group of participants, spectators and others gather on the beach at the 4th annual Wounded Warrior Surf Day at Fort Pierce Inlet State Park on Friday, Sep. 18, 2015. (Theresa Reynolds/Theresa Reynolds Photography)


    Posted: 10/29/2015 | By: Park Services Specialist Frank Reichert

    FORT PIERCE, Fla. - Last month, Fort Pierce Inlet State Park hosted the 4th annual Wounded Warrior Surf Day. In conjunction with the Wounded Warrior Project(link is external), a veteran services nonprofit organization, the park celebrated and honored 11 veterans and their families. With 4-foot surfs and 5-second intervals, first-time riders and experienced surfers alike were able to enjoy beautiful surf conditions.

    The day began with a procession that included a bagpiper, an FWC escort and the Port St. Lucie High School ROTC color guard. Thirty-five surf instructors were on hand as well as several park volunteers and employees. For the fourth consecutive year, the Surf Day was a great success.

    While the annual event is an excellent way to get outside and have fun, it is also a unique opportunity to raise community awareness and care for the needs of injured service members. But you do not have to wait until next year's Wounded Warrior Surf Day to get involved and have fun. There are several other opportunities for service. For more information about service opportunities at Fort Pierce Inlet State Park in particular, visit

  • 10/15/2015 11:52 AM | Florida State Parks Foundation (Administrator)
    Sun-Sational Spotlight: West Orange Trail
    Have a “must-experience” C2C place for us to feature? Email

    No doubt part of the C2C’s appeal is hiking or biking to the sun-sational Florida coasts.  But, don’t trek so fast across the state you miss the equally sun-sational jewel in the middle: the
     West Orange Trail.  Between Apopka and Winter Garden in Orange County, the West Orange Trail is 20 miles of urban and rural delights that attracts over 150,000 people each month.
    Natural highlights include tree canopies, a butterfly garden, and the 128-acre
     Oakland Nature Preserve on the south shore of Lake Apopka.  Keep moving and you will coast right through the middle of a bustling downtown Winter Garden, where you can grab a drink or bite to eat at a local restaurant or cool off at the splash pad.  Horseback riders are welcome too, and can enjoy a ten-mile parallel equestrian trail north and south of Clarcona Horse Park.
    What you won’t see is the millions of dollars the trail has pumped into the Central Florida economy.  A phenomenal success story, the West Orange Trail has inspired cities and counties all over the state to incorporate a trail into their communities to spur revitalization and economic prosperity.  
    This particular study may be a little dated, but the data says it all. 
    The first Orange County Mayor, Linda Chapin, spearheaded the construction of the West Orange Trail in the 1990’s.  She saw the trail as an opportunity to not only bring people to Orange County, but also link to neighboring Lake and Seminole Counties.  Still active in the trail community, she is thrilled to see the trail now link across the Sunshine State as part of the Coast to Coast Connector.
    Make the West Orange Trail one of your C2C destinations.  As Linda says, “you won’t regret it.”

    View newsletter online here. 

  • 10/08/2015 11:52 AM | Florida State Parks Foundation (Administrator)
    Make the C2C Florida's Shining Star


    Joe Beckham on the Lake Alford Greenway
    in Leon County, Florida


    By Joe Beckham
    President, Florida Greenways & Trails Foundation
    If you are into trails, chances are you know the good ones - and what makes them special.  Your input will be needed at a series of public and web-based workshops designed to capture the distinct features of the Coast to Coast Connector trail between December 2015 and March 2016.
    Thanks to the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council (TBRPC) and the East Central Regional Planning Council, a Florida Department of Economic Opportunity grant has been secured to study opportunities along the entire 250-mile C2C corridor.  Think trailheads, economic hubs, multimodal transit connections, cultural centers, and natural resources from the west coast to the east coast of Florida.  Once inventoried, these resources will become part of a design overlay to guide construction of new trail segments and provide a unifying theme for existing segments. 
    And yes, out of this effort will come a branding identity for the C2C.  An image that resonates with stakeholders and establishes the tone for how the trail will be viewed by the public is needed to elevate 20 local trails into one world-class destination.
    The TBRPC is currently seeking a consultant for this project and the
     RFP is available onlinethrough October 23.  Details on how and when you can participate in the workshops will be available on the TBRPC website.  The project is expected to be finalized in June 2016. 
    The FGTF looks forward to working with the regional planning councils, OGT, FDOT, the C2C Leadership Team and YOU to make the C2C the shining star of Florida’s system of recreational trails.

    View the newsletter online.

  • 10/05/2015 9:28 AM | Florida State Parks Foundation (Administrator)

    "Paradise Park was a segregated African-American resort located about a mile down the Silver River from the popular Silver Springs attraction near Ocala, Florida. The park was developed by Carl Ray and W.M. “Shorty” Davidson, co-owners of Silver Springs for nearly four decades. The park opened May 20, 1949 and remained open until 1969. African-American families, tour buses, and church groups came from all over Florida and the United States to visit the attraction. Amenities included a pavilion with a dance floor and jukebox, a swimming area with a sandy beach, tropical landscaping and space for softball and other games. Like its counterpart Silver Springs, Paradise Park featured glass-bottom boat tours that introduced visitors to the beauty of the Silver River. Easter egg hunts, baptisms and picnics were common, and at Christmas Santa Claus would cruise down the river on a glass-bottom boat to pass out candy, nuts and fruit for the children. Beauty contests were sponsored each Labor Day by the American Legion. Herpetologist Ross Allen even set up a reptile exhibit at the park, similar to the one located upriver at Silver Springs." (Florida Memory)

    Tomorrow, Saturday, October 10, 2015 the Silver Springs State Park will hold the  Paradise Park Marker Dedication at 10 A.M. at Marker, S.R. 35 @ Paradise Road located at the intersection of 24th Street and State Road 35 in Silver Springs Florida.  It is 1 block south of the intersection of State Road 40 and State Road 35, just south of the parking lot for Wild Waters.

    The Friends of Silver Springs, along with community members and park staff, worked together to spread recognition of the cultural history of Silver Springs. A historic place marker has been installed after months of collaboration and serves to educate visitors about the history of Paradise Park.

  • 09/21/2015 10:16 AM | Florida State Parks Foundation (Administrator)

    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Sept. 1, 2015

    CONTACT: DEP Press Office, 


    ~Award recognizes commitment to Florida’s environment~

    resource manager of the year

    TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Governor Rick Scott and the Florida Cabinet today honored Samantha McGee, park biologist of St. Sebastian River Preserve State Park, as one of three top Florida resource managers of the year for her commitment to the park’s habitat restoration and stewardship of state lands. Recipients are selected by a committee of environmental professionals representing the Sierra Club, Florida Audubon Society and The Nature Conservancy.

    “I’m proud to recognize Samantha McGee as one of Florida’s top resource managers,” said Donald Forgione, director of the Florida Park Service. “She is dedicated to restoring and protecting the 22,000 acres of St. Sebastian River Preserve.” 

    Ms. Samantha “Sammy” McGee has served as a park biologist at St. Sebastian River Preserve State Park since 2004. Ms. McGee demonstrates her commitment to preserving the park’s resources every day through habitat restoration, prescribed fire, and removal of invasive and exotic plants and animals. She has worked with five organizations to write and manage nearly $1 million in grants to restore scrub habitat, remove exotic plants, improve habitat for gopher tortoises and restore more than 10,000 acres of pine flatwoods. Ms. McGee is also active in the Southern Range Translocation Cooperative to advance monitoring and survival of red-cockaded woodpeckers, along with Florida scrub-jay, brown-headed nuthatch and carnivorous pitcher plants at the park. 

    This prestigious environmental honor is bestowed annually to a natural resource manager from DEP, the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Service’s Florida Forest Service, and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. The other award recipients were Cathy Lowenstein, forest resource administrator for the Florida Forest Service and Jean McCollum, land manager for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

    About Florida State Parks, Greenways and Trails 

    The Florida Park Service is the proud recipient of three National Gold Medals for Excellence in Park and Recreation Management, making Florida America’s first three-time Gold Medal winner. The awards were received in 1999, 2005 and 2013 from the American Academy for Park and Recreation Administration and the National Recreation and Park Association.

    Florida’s 174 state parks, trails and historic sites inspire residents and visitors with recreation opportunities and scenic beauty that help strengthen families, educate children, expand local economies and foster community pride. With nearly 800,000 acres, 100 miles of beaches and more than 1,500 miles of multi-use trails, residents and visitors should plan to visit soon and often to enjoy Florida’s natural treasures. Download the Florida State Parks Pocket Ranger® mobile app, available on iTunes and Android Market, to plan your trip and enhance your experience while visiting. For more information, visit

  • 09/14/2015 10:14 AM | Florida State Parks Foundation (Administrator)

    Silver Springs State Park: The Friends of Silver Springs, along with community members and park staff, worked together to spread recognition of the cultural history of Silver Springs. A historic place marker has been installed after months of collaboration and serves to educate visitors about the history of Paradise Park.

    Silver Springs Historical Marker

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