• 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

  • 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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