Blog

  • 04/17/2015 9:51 AM | Florida State Parks Foundation (Administrator)

    Being a Member of Friends of Florida State Parks is so much more than visiting our wonderful parks.

    If you are a member of Friends of Florida State Parks – thank you so much and please renew your membership. If you are not already a member but thinking about it, I hope the following will help persuade you why it is such a worthwhile cause.

    As a member you do, of course, get free day passes to our award winning parks and trails. You can enjoy walking, hiking, swimming, birding, picnicking, canoeing and a host of other great outdoor activities. As you walk around the parks, however, look at how much work constantly needs to be done from building repairs and new construction, from trail clearance and better signage and from providing better interpretive and educational programs to increasing accessibility for all.

    I would like to focus on these last two items but before that I want to once again thank our army of 27,000 statewide volunteers who help keep the parks open. It is their dedication and commitment that got Florida’s state parks voted the best in the nation – not just once but a record three times. Our army of park volunteers last year contributed more than 1.4 million hours of service, the equivalent of an additional 666 full time rangers.

    One of the great pleasures of being a volunteer is to be able to present educational and environmental programs, especially to schoolchildren. Friends of Florida State Parks has set itself the goal of dramatically increasing the number of schoolchildren who have access to all our parks in the coming months and years.

    We hope this will be achieved by a new Friends statewide program called ‘Education in the Parks’. After all, our parks provide the perfect outdoor classrooms.  We have already held a multi-agency group with potential partners to discuss the program and work is now underway to see how best to implement it.

    The object is to have a portfolio of curriculum-acceptable programs that could be taught in the parks. For instance, math students could use parks to measure the circumference of a tree or the angle of a branch and science students could do water testing and other hands-on practical experiments.

    Developing the program and providing the resources to administer and manage it will take considerable time, money and expertise – but it is a program that keep reap huge dividends by providing a different, more experiential learning experience.

    One of the ways Friends of Florida State Parks has supported education in the park projects in the past was with our Yellow Buses in the Parks Project.  Wherever possible, we have made grants available to CSO groups who then pay the bus transportation costs.  Most, if not all, school districts in Florida have had to cut field trip transportation costs from their budgets.  Had not the CSO’s stepped in with financial help many, many children would not have the benefit of an educational experience in the parks. We are committed to further developing this activity and are vigorously pursuing funding sources from Foundations and other grant providers to help us grow this program. This is another example of how some of your membership fees are spent.

    Finally, our parks provide such a wonderful opportunity to experience the great outdoors that they really should be accessible to everyone. That is why we want to increase our efforts to raise funds for our Access for All Campaign.  We have already helped purchase three Nomad all-terrain power wheelchairs and hope to buy many more. The wheelchairs, which cost $7,500, allow people with mobility challenges to explore places in the parks, like remote, unpaved trails that they wouldn’t otherwise be able to visit.

    Another way of increasing accessibility is to provide parks with special mats that can be rolled out over sand or muddy areas so that wheelchairs can travel over them. Several parks, for instance, have used these mats so that people in wheelchairs can now access the beach. Also, Friends of Florida State Parks has provided funding to have captioning put on existing films that play in the parks’ visitor/education centers so that people with hearing loss can enjoy and learn along with other park visitors. 

    Of course, all these improvements and purchases cost money but I hope you agree, that it is money well worth spending. So the next time you visit your favorite park, think of the many ways your membership fees are helping so many other people as well. Thank you.


  • 04/09/2015 2:41 PM | Florida State Parks Foundation (Administrator)
    Join the Florida trail movement
    image








     Joe Beckham in the limited edition C2C
    T-shirt, available to donors who join the trail movement by giving $200 or more to the Florida Greenways & Trails Foundation.



     
    By Joe Beckham
    President, Florida Greenways & Trail Foundation
     
    Key West to Miami. Tampa to Naples. And of course, St. Petersburg to Titusville.
     
    The future of Florida’s transportation is traveling between these destinations and more on two wheels or two feet via off-road paved trails. Thanks to the visionary leadership of many local communities and elected officials, regionally connected trails like the C2C are becoming reality throughout the Sunshine State. Gaps between recreational trails are being closed everywhere you look.

     
    This movement didn’t happen overnight. Years of strong advocacy, strategic alliances and critical financial support from foundations, non-profit groups, and cycling organizations have gotten us this far.  Now we need you to help bring us across the finish line. It’s easy:
    • Visit our website to make a personal contribution. Gifts of $200 or more will be recognized in this newsletter and you will receive a free C2C T-shirt.
    • Organize an event on your local trail to support the Foundation
    • Plan a legacy gift in your estate andcontact the Foundation
    • Introduce us to a corporate partner that wants a positive role in their community
    Join me and be a part of the trail movement that will make our state the most welcoming destination in the world for cyclists, equestrians, long-distance runners, hikers and paddlers, families and nature lovers.

    Together, we can do this. 


    Read the full C2C Connector by Florida Greenways & Trails Foundation, here...

  • 03/31/2015 11:30 AM | Florida State Parks Foundation (Administrator)
    In the past year, all of the Friends groups have faced many challenges.  With the implementation of the new CSO reporting requirements and CSO agreements, Friends groups are faced with more administrative and bookkeeping tasks. 

    In addition to these tasks, many CSOs Board of Directors must devote time to managing membership fulfillment, maintaining organization records, producing new and relevant content for the membership, distributing newsletters, updating social media, volunteering in our beautiful Florida Parks, and much more. 

    CSOs may struggle in these areas because their volunteer board members may have full-time jobs and other commitments. This makes it challenging for board members to handle all the administrative work while also focusing on more important tasks like implementing programs or raising funds for their state parks. 

    Since May 2014, My Paper Pusher has handled all administrative and bookkeeping tasks for Friends of Florida State Parks, allowing our Board of Directors to dedicate their time to expanding the organization, increasing membership, raising funds for the parks, and increasing advocacy efforts for the parks. 

    Outsourcing tasks like administration and bookkeeping is a great first step to increasing the efficiency of an organization and allowing the Board to have more time to focus on its mission.


    My Paper Pusher has offered a few tips to help you tackle administration and bookkeeping:

    1. Create a system for handling your records by developing a process and who is responsible for each step of the process.
    2. Create a filing system to ensure all your records are labeled and categorized to help your bookkeeper, administrator, and those requiring reports, such as funders find important information when needed. Creating an allocation sheet that lists your programs, accounts, events, and restricted funds can help create a uniform coding reference for each receipt or donation.
    3. Create internal controls so there are checks and balances in the processes and systems that you create. For example, the same person opening the mail should not also deposit checks. The person writing checks should not also be reconciling the bank account. Another way to avoid conflicts of interest is to have your treasurer oversee your organizatinon’s financials and have another individual perform the bookkeeping tasks.
    4. Perform bookkeeping tasks on a regular basis so that data entry and reconciliations do not pile up and become burdensome. This also provides regular financial information to the Board of Directors.
    5. Use technology to drive efficiencies. Investigate cost-effective donor management and accounting software that can help optimize the time of staff and board members. Software like QuickBooks and Wild Apricot can be affordable, and they can simplify administration and bookkeeping.
    You can learn more about My Paper Pusher by visiting their website here, and you can get regular accounting, administration, and nonprofit tips and updates by following their Facebook or LinkedIn sites.



  • 03/16/2015 10:55 AM | Florida State Parks Foundation (Administrator)

    Florida’s First People - A short story by Anne James.

    Kneeling on his right knee, the young boy winced as he dropped the sharp flint like stone made out of chert. He stuck his index finger in his mouth. He glanced up at the strong man next to him expecting to see a frown. Instead he saw a wide smile. Shining white teeth.

    A soft breeze rustled the lush green fern leaves that provided a soft carpet for the boy’s knee. A gurgling sound of water came from the freshwater spring.  Birds sang their different songs as the forest wrapped the hunters in a deceptive quiet.

    In Florida, Paleo-people found fresh water where they would camp and ambush land animals.  The people that lived 6,000 to 12,000 years ago are known as Paleoindian.

    The man placed his finger over his lips as he made a motion for the boy to be quiet.

    With careful slowness the boy lowered his other knee and braced his hands on his legs. Crouching he peered through the giant ferns looking at the gigantic furry mastodon.

    The elephant-like creature was unaware of the danger lurking in the ferns as he sucked the crystal clear water up through his trunk. Long white tusks on either side of his trunk gleamed through the blue-green water. His eyes blinked as if he was half asleep while he flapped his large ears from the persistent buzz of the flies and mosquitoes.

    Shifting his weight back on his right leg the man held the spear high above his head balancing the shaft with his left hand.  Poised and graceful as a modern day tennis player about to serve the ball all his muscles were bunched and tight.

    The boy’s head swiveled from the beast to the man. Holding his breath he waited for the spear to sail through the air. Excitement and anticipation made him tremble. If the mastodon was killed all the people would eat well. He could almost taste the delicious meat.

    A different rustling sound disturbed the normal forest sounds.

    The mastodon lifted his enormous head, blinking his eyes. He took a heavy step back. Swinging his trunk up out of the water he turned away from the springs.

    Relaxing his grip on the spear a fraction the strong hunter turned his head to the sound. A twenty-four foot alligator was slipping from the moist green ferns and palmettos and sliding into the springs.

    Shaking his head in disgust the hunter lowered his spear and motioned for the kneeling boy to get up.  There would be no mastodon meat tonight.

    Picking up the small spear with an ivory fore shaft from the tusk of a different mastodon, the boy stomped his feet in frustration.

    The man grabbed his arm frowning. He pointed to a break in the forest of large oaks and hickory trees. On a small path, black hair glistening in the sun a girl the same age as the boy was filling a gourd with acorns.                            

    The boy’s movement had caught her attention.  She glanced up and saw the strong hunter holding a spear with the boy by his side. Hesitating for a moment she balanced the gourd on her hip and gave a shy wave of her hand, tucking her head down.

    Taking short quick steps the two hunters, walked toward the girl on the path.

    Swelling up his chest as they neared the girl, the boy seemed to strut like a turkey gobbler.

    The girl giggled. She stepped back off the path as the two strode by with heads held high. With a gesture as quick as a snake, she stuck out her suntanned brown foot. The boy tripped and toppled headfirst onto the sandy path.

    Jumping up, eyes shooting sparks, he shoved the gourd out of the laughing girls arm.

    Acorns flew everywhere.

    As quick as a flash the man jerked his spear sideways across the path in a gesture that demanded the children to be still.

    The boy and the girl froze in position looking where the man was pointing.  A huge eastern diamondback rattlesnake was stretched across the path about 20 feet from the group.

    Like a streak of lightning the spear struck the enormous snake pinning its head to the ground. The four-pound body writhed and squirmed thumping back and forth across the path.                                              

    Another big smile slid across the face of the man as he looked at the open mouthed children.

    Florida snakes were an important meat source. As the snake is almost all muscle the meat would provide a lot of protein.

    After the twisting snake was quiet, the man walked toward it and grabbed his spear handle jerking it out of the ground. He motioned for the boy to come closer and reached for his smaller spear. Slicing off the rattles from the tail he handed them to the wide-eyed girl. Without hesitating she took them and dropped them in the acorn container.

    The boy knelt down beside the girl and picked up all the spilled acorns.

    Grasping the snake by the cut tail, the man followed the path dragging the snake without a look at the two children. Obediently, they fell into line behind him.

    The path led them to a gentle flowing river. The river flowed from the springs where the mastodon had been drinking.

    A large dugout canoe hollowed out of hard yellow pine waited for them in the dappled sun and shadows.

     

    We have looked after our rivers and springs for the last 12,000 years. Let’s make sure they are protected and preserved for the many generations to come.


  • 03/03/2015 10:04 AM | Florida State Parks Foundation (Administrator)

    The Wheelchair Derby and Fundraising Event recently held at Highlands Hammock State Park was a great success.  Thanks to the combined efforts of park staff, Gathering of Clubs-Motorcycle Riders and Enthusiasts, Friends of Highlands Hammock State Park, Friends of Florida State Parks, and others, over $10,000 was raised.

    The bulk of this money was used to purchase a Nomad all-terrain power wheelchair from Extreme Mobility.  The chair is maneuvered with a joy stick that can be used from either the right or left armrest and is equipped with a cell phone charger and a GPS locator.   This chair opens up the parks miles of beautiful trails to almost anyone unable to walk. 

    Paula Russo, who uses a mobility scooter, says, “This Nomad will get me to places in the park I had no hope of getting to before.  I can now join my family on a long hike or I can go out on my own for some peaceful solitude.  A whole new world has opened for me.”

    Brian Pinson, manager of Highlands Hammock State Park, believes it is important that visitors with disabilities are able to enjoy as many features of the park as possible.  This certainly shows in his willingness to make this kind of mobility equipment available to those who need it.

    Friends of Florida State Parks donated $1,500 towards the purchase of the Nomad.  Thanks and regards go to the Florida Region of the Aliner Owners Club who donated $800 of that figure. 

    Friends of Florida State Parks also helped out with promoting the event.

  • 11/13/2014 10:12 AM | Deleted user

    Florida’s award-winning state parks are the best in the nation and have been recognized as such a record three times.

    Last year, Florida’s 171 parks and trails attracted more than 25 million visitors - more than Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom. It takes quite an army to run such a huge operation from the officials with the Florida Park Service in Tallahassee down to the managers and rangers at each of the parks.

    However, what a lot of people don’t realize is that there is another ‘secret’ army at work which plays a vital role in helping to keep the operation running smoothly. This is the army of volunteers – 27,000 strong – who last year contributed almost 1.4 million hours to state parks.

    Those volunteer hours – the equivalent of 666 full-time employees- account for almost two-thirds of the park service’s total full-time manpower, and are a $29.6 million value to the State of Florida.

    Many parks also have a non-profit Citizen’s Support Organization (CSO) which apart from providing volunteers also provides direct support which last year totaled more than $2.6 million. This support ranges from providing administrative support and maintenance of park infrastructure, building boardwalks and interpretive displays to organizing educational and environmental events and hosting school visits. It also includes providing visitor services, acting as campground hosts, helping to increase accessibility for all and much more.

    While many volunteers interface with the public, many more perform their volunteer duties out of sight. Retired motor mechanics help to keep the park vehicles and equipment running. CSOs often use their funds to buy needed parts or new vehicles, equipment and supplies. Other volunteers work in areas of the park not regularly visited by the public keeping trails open, building new ones, removing exotic and nuisance plants and so on.

    Volunteers come from all walks of life and provide the park’s with a treasure chest full of skills. Many have trades and can help erect and repair buildings. Others are skilled educators and interpreters. The one thing they all have in common, however, is their love of our wonderful state parks which is why they all give their time so freely.

    So the next time you visit one of Florida’s state parks spare a thought for the volunteers. They may take your entrance fee as you drive into the park, they may lead you on a guided tour or conduct an interpretive program. Or you may never see one at all time because they are busy out of sight working to make your experience a more satisfying one.

    Thank you to all our volunteers.
  • 10/07/2014 9:29 AM | Deleted user

    Paula Dockery: The case for ‘yes’ on Amendment One


    Published: 

    With the election about a month away, we’re all getting our fill of political ads, newspaper articles, direct-mail pieces and poll results on various candidates running for office. Constitutional amendments also are on the November ballot.

    There are various ways the Florida Constitution can be amended. Two of the most common are through citizens’ initiatives or through legislatively introduced amendments. In both cases, amendments must receive 60 percent of the votes in an election in order to change our constitution.

    The first two amendments on November’s ballot were placed there through the hard work of citizens who jumped through the costly and labor-intensive hurdles set up to make changing the constitution difficult.

    It’s important for voters to understand the amendments and to be prepared to vote on them in advance. The language can be lengthy and complex, so it’s best to do a little homework.

    Allow me to make the case for a “yes” vote on the proposed “Water and Land Conservation” amendment, which appears as Amendment One.

    Amendment One would set aside 33 percent of an existing tax and dedicate those dollars to be used for conservation purposes only. This would include land acquisition and management; ensuring a safe and adequate supply of drinking water; restoring the Everglades; protecting our springs, lakes, rivers and coastal waters; providing outdoor recreational activities; and preserving our natural areas and wildlife habitat.

    Many come to Florida to visit our beautiful beaches, fish in our lakes, rivers and coastal areas, and to enjoy our 170 or so state parks and other public lands. Tourism is one of our most important industries, and our nature-based resources play a major role in attracting visitors undefined as well as revenues and jobs.

    Our agricultural industry relies on a plentiful supply of water to grow crops and raise livestock. Collecting water during wet weather for use during times of drought is another potential use of these funds.

    And let’s be clear undefined this is an existing tax, not a new tax or an increase in an existing tax. The documentary stamp tax is paid when real estate is sold. As the housing market improves, more revenue is generated, with a third of this one-revenue source dedicated to conservation.

    How much could this be? Estimates say this would generate $10 billion over 20 years, or roughly $500 million a year. Of course, that would fluctuate with the strength of the housing market undefined a fiscally responsible way to fund.

    Let’s put these numbers in perspective.

    ♦  First, this year’s state budget was more than $77 billion. Isn’t the protection of our natural resources worth at least $500 million, which is less than 1 percent of the total budget?

    ♦  Second, under current law the Legislature is supposed to be funding the Florida Forever program at $300 million and the Water Sustainability Act at $100 million annually but has failed to do so.

    Florida Forever was fully funded over the eight years under Gov. Jeb Bush, and for the first two years under Gov. Charlie Crist. When the recession hit, every major budget area was cut, but as the economy improved and revenues grew, funding for environmental programs was not restored.

    Our state parks have $400 million in land management needs but have only received $15 million or so for each of the past few years. Everglades restoration and springs protection will take billions over the next 20 years.

    Citizens who had been patient during the lean times became fearful that the funding might remain at anemic levels, putting our resources at great risk. They collected hundreds of thousands of signatures, paid to have them verified, defended the amendment language before the Florida Supreme Court, and are now leading the effort to get 60 percent of the vote required to change the state constitution.

    For those who argue this doesn’t belong in the constitution, I ask: If not this, what? What could be more vital to our very survival than water?

    And if the Legislature won’t fund the very programs it enacted at the levels it specified, then this might be the only way to ensure a steady but flexible funding level that rises and falls with the economy. Surely, our quality of life is worth 1 percent of our state budget.

    Vote “yes” on Amendment One to protect our natural resources and preserve our beautiful state for our children and future generations.

    Paula Dockery served in the Florida Legislature for 16 years as a Republican from Lakeland. Contact: PBDockery@gmail.com.


    To view the original article, visit The Tampa Tribune here.


  • 07/16/2014 1:50 PM | Florida State Parks Foundation (Administrator)

    OPERATION RECREATION GEOTOUR


    Florida state parks now offers geocaching adventures!

    Click here for details.



  • 07/10/2014 12:38 PM | Deleted user

    A new statewide citizen support organization (CSO), the Aquatic Preserve Society, has been formed to promote the protection of Florida's 41 aquatic preserves.

    The Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s Florida Coastal Office has long made use of the volunteerism and fundraising capabilities of citizen support organizations from around the state. These CSOs work in conjunction with regional staff to hold events and provide operational support throughout the year.

    “We are very excited to see how the Aquatic Preserve Society develops,” said Kevin Claridge of the Florida Coastal Office. “CSO groups have been instrumental in our efforts across the state, and we look forward to adding more strength and stability to this network.”

    After gathering a list of nominees to create this new CSO, a two-day meeting was held in April to gauge interest in the concept. This meeting was designed to determine the wants and needs of the existing CSO network, as well as solicit feedback from the group. As a result of this meeting, the group decided a statewide CSO could vastly increase the effectiveness of the existing network and enhance awareness of aquatic preserves.

    During the April meeting, participants performed various visioning and brainstorming activities that established both short- and long-term goals, along with a name for the statewide CSO. Some of the main goals included fundraising and improving the overall support for the existing network.

    The Aquatic Preserve Society has now gained the Florida Nonprofit Status and is currently working on filing internal documents with both the IRS and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.

    The next big steps for the statewide organization will be to draft bylaws and a memorandum of agreement with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. Upon completion and signing of the memorandum of agreement, the Aquatic Preserve Society will become an official CSO for the Florida Coastal Office.

    Aquatic Preserves are sovereign submerged lands protected under the Aquatic Preserve Act of 1975. There are 41 aquatic preserves in Florida totaling about 2.7 million acres. The preserves protect bird rookeries, fish nurseries, freshwater springs, salt marshes, mangroves and sea grass meadows. Some preserves contain cultural heritage sites of civilization that lived there for a time. While the preserves protect the beauty and landscape, visitors are encouraged to enjoy swimming, fishing, boating and paddling in designated areas.


  • 06/19/2014 12:14 PM | Florida State Parks Foundation (Administrator)
    Published: Tuesday, June 17, 2014 at 16:07 PM.


    DESTIN

    Henderson Beach State Park will remain concession free for the foreseeable future.
    Gov. Rick Scott signed a bill Friday with language sidetracking state Department of Environmental Protection efforts to hire a concessionaire to provide visitor amenities at the park.
    The news made the volunteers who provide the very limited concessions now offered at Henderson Beach State Park “very, very happy.”
    “We are ecstatic. The park is going to stay the pristine place it is now,” said Donna Stiles, president of the Friends of the Emerald Coast State Park.
    An amendment attached to H.B. 7093 prohibits awarding new concession contracts inside state parks featuring less than 7,000 feet of shoreline undefined if concessions are available within 1,500 feet of the park’s boundaries.
    The strict guidelines, crafted by state Sen. Aaron Bean and local state Rep. Matt Gaetz, apply to only two Florida state parks, Henderson Beach and Zachary Taylor State Park in Key West.
    Before the Florida Legislature even convened this year, DEP had awarded a contract for concessions at Henderson Beach State Park to Park Venues LLC, managed by William Hagerman and Shannon Howell.
    Park Venues planned to provide beach rentals, bike and golf carts rentals, interactive sessions, marine camps and ecotours.
    Hagerman and Howell, who also own and are developing the Henderson Beach Resort next to the state park property, intend to drop any plans to amend the business plan they’d created for the park.
    “The way the bill reads the only concessions that can go in now are those that are already there,” Howell said.
    Howell said his companies have developed a solid business relationship with the volunteers who manage what few concessions are now available at Henderson Beach State Park and there is no need to attempt to steal their business.
    “The citizens support organization has volunteered in there for 15 years. They go in and work hard providing the retail and weddings, our backing out, we felt, was the right thing to do,” he said.

    Contact Daily News Staff Writer Tom McLaughlin at 850-315-4435 ortmclaughlin@nwfdailynews.com. Follow him on Twitter @TomMnwfdn.

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