Blog

  • 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!


  • 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.
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