• 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

  • 09/11/2015 10:17 AM | Florida State Parks Foundation (Administrator)

    Recreation / Rest / Nature - Access For All in Florida State Parks

    Florida State Parks ensure there are affordable, friendly, places where families and individuals can play hard or rest easy.  Here is September’s featured five + 1 “Celebrating Access for All”.

    St. Joseph Peninsula State Park   Northwest Region

    A note from park manager, Mark Knapke (Mark from the Park)

    I hope you are able to visit St. Joseph Peninsula State Park.   St. Joseph Peninsula State Park is a great place to relax at the beach, swim, go snorkeling, fish, launch your boat, or enjoy a sunrise over the bay or a sunset over the Gulf of Mexico.   St. Joseph Peninsula State Park is one of Florida's most diverse state parks and was rated top beach in the nation in 2002 and best State Park in 2012. There is something for everyone to enjoy with a multitude of recreational opportunities and an abundance of wildlife. Come and enjoy nine miles of white sand beach and view some of the most prominent dune formations in the United States.

    The park offers 119 camp sites, 7 cabins, a group camp and primitive camping; reservations can be made through Reserve America. We have three nature trails and a Wilderness Preserve for you to explore and observe the various wildlife and plant communities.   Come during Scallop season and catch your own bay scallops; it is great family fun and our bay scallops are some of the most delicious things you will ever eat. Hope to see you soon.

     St Joseph - Accessible Amenities

    T.H Stone Memorial - St. Joseph Peninsula State Park is committed to providing a variety of accessible amenities for visitors. 

    Those amenities include:

    Suwannee River State Park - Northeast Region

    Suwannee River was among the first parks to become part of the Florida State Park system. An original 300 acres was purchased in 1936. The park now has more than 1800 acres in three counties: Suwannee, Madison, and Hamilton.

    Suwannee River Accessible Amenities Include


    Located along the Suwannee River Wilderness Trail, each of five riverside cabins accommodate up to six people. These spacious two bedroom cabins have heating and cooling, an electric fireplace, screened porch and kitchenette. They are fully equipped with linens and kitchen utensils. Picnic tables and grills are conveniently located at each cabin. One cabin is ADA accessible.


    Located near the Suwannee River, the campground offers 30 oak-shaded sites with electricity, water, sewer, picnic table, and fire ring. Three campsites are ADA accessible. The campground offers ADA accessible restrooms with showers.

    Sebastian Inlet State Park – Central Region

    Sebastian Inlet State Park is a wonderful place to view wildlife. Located on the tip of two barrier islands and surrounded by water, birds flock to Sebastian Inlet State Park. Visitors have a chance to view over 180 species of birds during the course of a year. The Sebastian Inlet State Park is part of the Great Florida Birding Trail. Sebastian Inlet State Park and the surrounding beaches have the largest nesting assemblage of sea turtles in the United States. During June and July visitors have an opportunity to witness nesting loggerhead sea turtles on a ranger-led walk. Reservations for these tours are necessary. Juvenile green sea turtles feed in the seagrass beds of the Indian River Lagoon and can be seen on the reefs off of the McLarty Treasure Museum. In the water surrounding the park Atlantic bottlenose dolphins are commonly seen. Manatees inhabit these waters from March to October. The most endangered whale species in the world is the right whale, with a population of only 300. During the months of January and February, right whales can sometimes be observed traveling close to the coast. Raccoons, opossums, and many other small animals can be routinely observed. Bobcats, alligators, and river otters are occasionally seen.

    Sebastian Inlet - Accessible Amenities

    • Campsites 
    • Picnic Tables
    • Grills
    • Park Brochure & Publications (large print available)
    • Park Programs (sign language interpreters upon advanced request)
    • Fishing Piers and Catwalks
    • Boat Ramps & Canoe and Kayak Launch Areas
    • Covered Picnic Pavilions
    • Restaurant & Gift Shops
    • Museums
    • Beach Accesses & Beach Wheelchair
    • Marina
    • Fish Cleaning Station
    • Wildlife Viewing Areas

      Oscar Scherer State Park – Southwest Region

      In her will, Elsa Scherer Burrows (1884-1955) left the family’s 460-acre South Creek Ranch to the state in memory of her father Oscar Scherer (who invented a process for dyeing leather in 1872). After a year of preparation, Oscar Scherer State Park opened to the public in 1956. Three decades later, realtor and environmentalist, Jon Thaxton began campaigning for the state to purchase and protect adjoining Florida scrub-jay territory. With help from The Nature Conservancy, Sarasota County and wide public support, the state purchased an additional 922 acres from the adjacent Palmer Ranch in 1991. The park now preserves more than two square-miles of natural land in a rapidly developing region, and provides resource-based recreation for over 100,000 visitors annually.

      Oscar Scherer - Accessible Amenities Include

      • Accessible campsites
      • Lester Finley Barrier Free Trail
      • Lake Osprey Trail
      • Beach wheelchair
      • Fishing dock
      • Canoe/kayak launch  
      • Nature Center
      • Lake Beach access
      • Videos with closed/open caption
      • Picnic pavilions and benches
      • Grills
      • Playground
      • Fire rings
      • Tram tours
      • Listening devices

        Fort Pierce Inlet State Park – Southeast Region   

        Fort Pierce Inlet State Park is a half-mile stretch of white sand on a sunny Florida beach. During World War II, it was the birthplace and training ground for U.S. Navy Frogmen, forerunners of today's Navy Seals. It was here that many of the 140,000 personnel stationed in the area practiced for the D-Day invasion of Europe. 'Dynamite Point' earned its name from the activities of the Navy Underwater Demolition Team.

        Fort Pierce Inlet - Accessible Amenities Include

        • Beach Wheelchairs
        • Accessible Youth Campsite
        • Picnic pavilions and benches
        • Grills
        • Playground Area

        John U. Lloyd State Park - Southeast Region 

        Due to the efforts of John U. Lloyd, Broward County's attorney for 30 years, the state approved the purchase of this property in 1954 and the park was named in his honor.  Lloyd Beach has one of the easiest and most interesting shore dives in the area. The park has two boat ramps with easy access to the ocean through the Port Everglades Inlet, which will please those who prefer to fish in open water. The mangrove-lined waterway is a scenic place to canoe, observe bird life, and take photographs. Located off A1A in the City of Hollywood.

        Lloyd Beach - Accessible Amenities Include

        • Beach wheelchairs
        •  Accessible picnic pavilions and grills
        • Accessible fishing from the jetty
        • Boat Ramp

      • 09/11/2015 10:15 AM | Florida State Parks Foundation (Administrator)

        (Testimonial received on the DEP Customer Survey website)

        Fort Clinch State Park -

        "I set out to share my love for our FL Parks with a family member recovering from a stroke. I love, love, love that beach/off road wheelchairs are available for use!! It allowed him to get out of his standard wheelchair and explore places that would otherwise be in-accessible (beach & fort). Staff was incredible!!!From my first visit with questions and subsequent phone calls, the Rangers were so helpful in planning the outing. They provided great suggestions too! At the fort, Volunteer Union Soldier Work was fabulous - moving with us, putting down ramps, and providing a wonderful tour. His fife playing added the perfect touch! Thank you!!! Thank you!! Thank you!"

        The beach/off road wheelchair used by this happy park visitor is none other than the all-terrain power wheelchair purchased for Fort Clinch by the Friends of Florida State Parks.  This purchase was possible because of generous donations from our members and supporters - THANK YOU!

        This chair has been at Fort Clinch about two years and park staff reports that it is in regular use by many from Wounded Warriors to grandmothers.  Imagine what it means to these people to be able to get out on the beach.  To not have to stay back and watch family and friends go while they sit there.

        Playing a big part in this success is park staff and the volunteers of Friends of Fort Clinch who built a room to house the chair and make sure it stays clean, charged, and in good working order. 

        It takes team effort to accomplish successes like this.  Join the team by becoming a member (if you aren't already),  and making a donation to our Access For All Campaign.

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      • 09/11/2015 10:14 AM | Florida State Parks Foundation (Administrator)

        Thanks to a generous grant made to our Yellow Buses in the Parks Project from the Felburn Foundation approximately 1,400 children are going to be able to participate in historical education programs at Dudley Farm Historic State Park and Okeechobee Battlefield State Park. This grant is funding fieldtrip transportation costs and accompanying education materials.

        The Felburn Foundation has given major support to many conservation efforts across Florida.  We extend our heartfelt thanks for becoming part of our team in supporting children's education programs in Florida State Parks.

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      • 08/27/2015 9:24 AM | Florida State Parks Foundation (Administrator)

        Okeechobee Battlefield Historic State Park

        Okeechobee Battlefield is the site of one of Florida’s significant battles during the Second Seminole War.  The Battle of Okeechobee, fought on Christmas Day, 1837, involved more than 1,000 United States military and volunteer soldiers, fighting against several hundred Seminole and Miccosukee warriors along the northern edge of Lake Okeechobee. The battle is considered a turning point in the war with full-scale attacks ceasing and the number of smaller skirmishes diminishing after the event.

        Description of Student Program - School Day at Battle of Okeechobee Reenactment.  Students will gain an understanding of the Seminole Wars in Florida, especially the Battle of Okeechobee, how the soldiers and Seminole warriors lived and the equipment they used, and they will see a "mini" battle to see how the battle was fought.  Between 550 and 600 students will participate, including all 4th graders in Okeechobee and Glades public schools, private and home school students and the Brighton Seminole Charter School.

        Funding needed - Transportation costs - $1,100, Materials - $243 for Seminole Wars Foundation historic pamphlets (‘A Short History of the Seminole Wars’, ‘Memoir to Accompany a Map of Military Operations in FL’, and ‘In Their Own Words: Selected Seminole "Talks" 1817-1842’. 

        Total Funding needed:  $1,343

        Dudley Farms Historic State Park

        Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, this park demonstrates the evolution of Florida farming from the 1850s to the mid-1940s-through three generations of the Dudley family.  In the mid-1800s, the Dudley family moved from Charleston, SC to North Central Florida. Three generations owned and worked the 640-acre piece of land. By the 1880s, Dudley was a significant crossroads community, successfully maintaining livestock, crops and large vegetable gardens and attaining prominence in Alachua County. An authentic working farm, the homestead consists of 18 buildings, including the family farmhouse with original furnishings, an 1880s kitchen outbuilding, a general store and post office, and a functional cane syrup complex. Other original items include hand-stitched quilts, a large quilting frame, an 1835 Bible carried by P.B.H. Dudley through the Civil War, photographs and farm implements.  Park staff in period clothing perform daily chores, raise crops and tend to livestock. The farm features seasonal cane grindings, corn shuckings and heritage varieties of livestock and plants. Deer, wild turkeys, gopher tortoises and bluebirds are still seen in the fields. The park has a visitor center, picnic area and nature trail.

        Description of Student Program - Historical Education Tours for between 400 and 800 students from Pre-K to 12th grade.  Programs are geared appropriately to the age group and cover multiple historical aspects of post-Civil War (War between the States) life on a farm, including:  how crops were grown, were water came from, types of vegetables grown, field crops and cash crops, livestock and farm animals, what life was like, why and how the buildings were built, transportation of the time, farming implements and other tools of the time, why certain land areas were utilized and not others, and daily life for men, women and children.  We also compare and contrast how we as a society and/or as individuals live now with how they lived back then.

        Funding needed –  Transportation cost - $4,000, Materials - $195 as follows:

        Educational DVDs                   $ 35.00

        (to be distributed to students along with handouts as a pre and post supplement to the tour)

        1 Box Paper                             $ 25.00

        60 clipboards                          $120.00

        144 pencils                              $ 15.00

        Total Materials -                     $195.00

        Total Funding needed:          $4,195


      • 08/18/2015 10:30 AM | Florida State Parks Foundation (Administrator)

        Every Florida State Park is special and unique.  It is hard to choose any one park to highlight so here are five.  One from each section of the state.  This is part of our yearlong campaign of Celebrating Access for All.         


        St. George Island State Park - Northwest Region

        In 2013 and 2014, Dr. Beach ranked Dr. Julian G. Bruce St. George Island State Park the #3 best beach in America.

        In 2011, Dr. Beach ranked Dr. Julian G. Bruce St. George Island State Park the #6 best beach in America and in 2012; Dr. Beach ranked Dr. Julian G. Bruce St. George Island State Park the #4 best beach in America.

        The 2010 Outdoor Awards from Reserve America ranked St. George Island State Park as #28 of the top 100 family campgrounds, #5 of 25 top bird watching spots, #13 of the top 50 fishing spots, and #11 of the top 25 best beaches.

        Access For All - Accessible Amenities at St. George Island State Park

        It is hard to get left out at this park!

        Some of the amenities include:

        •          Two beach wheelchairs
        •          A Beach Scoot electric mobility device
        •          A floating Mobi-Chair
        •         Accessible campsites
        •         Two Mobi-Mats at the #1 and #8 beach access points
        •        UTAP evaluated nature trails


        Manatee Springs State Park – Northeast Region

        The first-magnitude spring at this park produces an average of 100 million gallons of clear, cool water daily. In winter, West Indian manatees swim upriver to the warmer waters of the springs. Popular for snorkeling and scuba diving, the headwaters of the spring are also a great spot for swimming. The spring run forms a sparkling stream that meanders through hardwood wetlands to the Suwannee River. Canoe and 

        kayaking is available all year round.

        Access For All - Accessible Amenities at Manatee Springs

        • The amenities here include a wheelchair accessible boardwalk that winds through the beautiful cypress swamp from the spring to the river.

        Gamble Rogers State Park – Central Region

        Nestled between the Atlantic Ocean and the Intra-coastal Waterway, this windswept park is named for Florida folk singer Gamble Rogers. The beach is the most popular feature at this park, where visitors enjoy swimming, sunbathing, beachcombing or fishing. The daily low tide is an ideal time to observe shore birds feeding in tidal pools; summer months bring sea turtles that lay their eggs in the golden-brown coquina sand.

        Access For All - Accessible Amenities at Gamble Rogers

        A sample of the access here is:

        • Several wheelchair accessible campsites
        • Restroom and shower facilities are also accessible  
        • A beach wheelchair is available upon request.


        Skyway Fishing Pier State Park – Southwest Region

        When the new Sunshine Skyway Bridge was built over Tampa Bay, connecting St. Petersburg with Sarasota, the old bridge was turned into the world's longest fishing pier. Anglers love being able to park their cars or campers within a few feet of their favorite fishing spot. The bridge is lighted at night, so anglers can see to rig a line, bait the hook, and get a good look at their catch. The light also attracts many species of fish after sundown. Common catches include snook, tarpon, grouper, black sea bass, Spanish mackerel, king mackerel, cobia, sheepshead, red snapper, pompano, and many more. Snacks, drinks, bait, and fishing supplies are available.

        Access For All - Accessible Amenities at the Skyway Fishing Pier

        • Being able to park close to a fishing spot is a favorite of many.

        Fort Zachery Taylor Historic State Park – Southeast Region

        Designated a National Historic Landmark in 1973, Florida’s southernmost state park is popular for recreation, as well as U.S. military history. The fort was one of a series built in the mid-1800s to defend the nation’s southeastern coastline. Completed in 1866, Fort Zachary Taylor played important roles in the Civil War and Spanish-American War. Guided tours of the fort are available daily. Key West’s favorite beach, located at the southern end of the park, provides opportunities for picnicking, swimming, snorkeling, and fishing. Visitors can also enjoy a short nature trail and bicycling within the park.

        Access For All - Accessible Amenities at Fort Zachery

        Access here includes: 

        • A beach wheelchair available on request 
        • Wheelchair accessible picnic tables and grills
        • While the ground surface of the picnic area is not paved, it is stable and packed ground.
        • Much of the Fort can be accessed by wheelchair.  Tours are available daily.

      • 08/18/2015 10:22 AM | Florida State Parks Foundation (Administrator)

        You can donate for a chance to win a Florida State Parks Annual Family Pass, a value of $120.  Each chance is just $10 and the money raised will be used for FFSP’s Access For All Campaign

        The raffle will run from Tuesday, August 18, 2015 through Friday, September 18, 2015. Make your donation here and be sure to choose “Access For All Campaign” in the designation line and be sure to indicate "Family Pass Raffle" in comments section.

      • 07/20/2015 10:32 AM | Florida State Parks Foundation (Administrator)

        July 26, 2015 is the 25th anniversary of the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990.  This civil rights law opened up worlds of possibilities for people with disabilities to join mainstream American life. 

        The ADA has provided guidance on how to make things accessible to people with disabilities but it has always been important to the Florida Park Service that all visitors feel welcome in Florida State Parks.  Long before the passage of the ADA, accommodations were made such as letting a vehicle be driven where normally this was not allowed so that someone who could not walk to a location could see a view or join an activity. 

        Over the years, so much more has been accomplished to include and welcome people with disabilities to Florida State Parks. Wheelchair accessible parking spaces and restrooms, ramps, open captioned films, limitless playgrounds, interpretive displays with Braille and tactile components for people who are blind.  The list could go on and on.

        It is important to acknowledge these Florida Park Service accomplishments and also to acknowledge the hard work of volunteers and the generous financial support from individuals, foundations, businesses, and others that have made many large and small projects possible.  Thank you!

        Let us join with the Florida Park Service in its statewide, yearlong celebration of successes in making Florida State Parks accessible to people with disabilities.  Over the next months, we will be featuring accessibility project success stories in our newsletter and on social media so stay in touch.

        We will also be highlighting some of the amazing innovative products available now that give even more opportunity for individuals with disabilities to be in the outdoors with family and friends.  Check them out at our Access for All Campaign webpage and help with a donation so as many people as possible can have a Florida State Park experience!

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