• 05/14/2014 3:03 PM | Florida State Parks Foundation (Administrator)
    The state could face a painful financial hit to its Park System and to the other agencies that benefit from CSOs.
    Published: Wednesday, May 14, 2014 at 12:01 a.m.
    Last Modified: Tuesday, May 13, 2014 at 10:44 p.m.

    During the legislative session, many bills make it through without much scrutiny or attention while the bigger, controversial issues get more attention. So a little 15-page bill dealing with a mundane issue such as citizen support organizations wasn't really a blip on anyone's radar, but it should have been.

    To the casual observer, and most of the Legislature, it must have appeared as a shining example of good government, transparency, accountability or any other feel-good bureaucratic buzzword you'd like to insert here.

    But it isn't good government. In fact, it's more government, more intrusiveness and more meddling into the actions of private entities. That's right undefined private entities. Most of these CSOs are not-for-profit organizations that already have stringent reporting and auditing requirements as well as extensive coordination with government agencies.

    Read the rest of the story here:

  • 05/04/2014 3:41 PM | Florida State Parks Foundation (Administrator)

    A list of some of the major and minor bills that passed and failed in the 2014 session. Bills must be approved by Gov. Rick Scott to become the law of the land.

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    CITIZEN SUPPORT GROUPS (PASSED): Establishes reporting requirements and automatic sunset for citizen support organizations and direct support organizations, such as Friends of Florida State Parks. (SB 1194)

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  • 04/29/2014 3:05 PM | Florida State Parks Foundation (Administrator)

    Junior Friends of Savannas competition winners

    The Junior Friends of Savannas participated and won the county division in the Indian River Lagoon Regional Envirothon Competition in February 2014. They are off to the State competition in May. From left to right in the photo are: Kevin Helseth, Justin Lee, and Kreesha Shah. Team members not pictured are Matt Thomas and Chandler Martin.
  • 04/23/2014 4:55 PM | Florida State Parks Foundation (Administrator)

    Friends launch $1 million campaign to increase accessibility at Florida’s state parks

    Friends of Florida State Parks has launched a $1 million fund raising effort to increase accessibility at Florida’s state parks and has purchased the first powered all-terrain wheelchair to get the campaign off to a great start.

    The $7,000 powered all-terrain wheelchair allows people with disabilities access to trails, beaches and other pathways which they otherwise would have difficulty traversing, said Sally Hess, President of the nonprofit Friends of Florida State Parks, Inc. (FFSP).

     What if when you were a child you could not walk on a beach or down a forest path? And then as an adult, were not able to join your children in either of these activities. Or what if you had loved hiking as a youth, but are now no longer physically capable of even wandering along an unpaved park trail?” she added.

    The Access for All campaign aims to remedy this, she said. Twenty projects have been selected, at a cost of almost $1 million, to boost accessibility. FFSP has now launched a major media campaign to raise these much needed funds.

    Projects include the purchase of more all-terrain powered wheelchairs. Some parks hope to install a product called Mobi-Mat to create stable pathways over sand or rough terrain to allow manual wheelchair users and anyone using other mobility aids, like canes, crutches or walkers easier access to beaches, lakesides and some trails.

    At St. Andrews State Park, a wheelchair marina lift is planned at the boat basin to assist loading and unloading for those with physical disabilities who want to boat or fish.

    Other parks are planning universally accessible playgrounds, accessible kayak launches, accessible parking, accessible entrance and exit ramps, decks and boardwalks.

    FFSP supports the entire Florida park system by preserving, protecting and ensuring accessibility to state parks, educating visitors about the value of state parks, encouraging community engagement and active use of state parks, and providing financial support to supplement state funding.

    Florida’s 171 state parks and trails cover almost 789,000 acres and attracted over 25 million visitors last year whose spending added more than $1.1 billion to local economies. Friends groups and volunteers contributed a record 1.3 million volunteer hours.

  • 04/23/2014 12:56 PM | Florida State Parks Foundation (Administrator)
    re-posted with permission from Florida Disabled Outdoor Association

    Recreation Options - Finding someplace in Florida with a Beach Wheelchair

    A favorite pastime in Florida is going to the beach. Traditional wheelchairs and walkers make it nearly impossible for people with mobility impairments to travel through the sand to reach the water.  However, beach wheelchairs make traveling through the sand possible again for people with disabilities. The most popular question that the Florida Disabled Outdoors Association is asked is where can people rent or borrow beach wheelchairs. What many people may not know is that beach wheelchairs are available for use at no charge at over 30 Florida State Parks. Anyone interested in using a beach wheelchair should contact that State Park directly. Simply go to then beach wheelchairs. When you click on the Florida State Park you wish to visit, their phone number will be displayed along with a lot of other valuable information. Just call the state park directly to reserve a beach wheelchair for the day. Also listed on the Florida State Park website are accessible fishing piers, trails, and boat tours. Make your reservation today for a beach wheelchair at a Florida park today!

  • 04/18/2014 7:55 PM | Florida State Parks Foundation (Administrator)
    ~The Florida Park Service appreciates and thanks our volunteers for more than 1.3 million hours of service.~

    April is National Volunteer Month and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s Florida Park Service would like to congratulate the winners of the 2013 Friends of Florida State Parks Volunteer Awards. Each of the five regional offices hold ceremonies to recognize the contributions of volunteers, which include more than 7,900 regular service volunteers and 19,937 occasional service volunteers. Last year, regular service volunteers contributed 1,340,230 hours to the state park system.

    National Volunteer Month celebrates and promotes the spirit of volunteerism throughout the country and raises awareness about how volunteering changes lives and strengthens communities. Over five weekends, volunteers gathered around Florida for award ceremonies. The Irene DeLaby Award recognizes volunteers who have contributed more than 10,000 hours of volunteer service. The following five people were recognized:

    Don Philpott

    Robert Barnett

    Teresa Barnett

    Jim Watson

    Ronald Wipp

  • 04/12/2014 8:48 PM | Florida State Parks Foundation (Administrator)

    Gov. Rick Scott thinks so highly of the Friends of Florida State Parks that he plugged $750,000 into his proposed budget for the group to match with private donations and put toward improved park facilities. But some legislators think so little of the nonprofit that they want the ability to kill it and other citizen organizations that support crime victims, the Guardian ad Litem program and even the state's prescription drug database.

    Under SB 1194 and HB 1153, this is a push for ethics reform gone awry. The legislation legitimately establishes financial reporting requirements for the support groups, but it also includes a provision giving lawmakers the authority to review and repeal the so-called direct-support organizations. Try raising matching grant money from the private sector if you can't guarantee your existence five years down the road.

    The legislation's aim is to establish the same transparency requirements for the nonprofits that government agencies must follow, a spokesman for Senate President Don Gaetz told Tampa Bay Times staff writer Craig Pittman. It's a valid goal but poorly executed under these bills. Certainly, no state agency faces extinction in 2019 if it fails to post its annual report on a website.

    Legislators should drop the review-and-repeal directive from these bills and let the groups concentrate on what they do best undefined use private dollars to aid the same constituencies served by state government.

    Editorial: Reform bills off target 04/11/14 [Last modified: Friday, April 11, 2014 4:48pm]

  • 04/12/2014 8:06 PM | Florida State Parks Foundation (Administrator)

    Editorial: Harassing friends of the parks

    Katie Betta, a spokeswoman for Gaetz, told the Florida Current the sunset review would give “the Legislature an opportunity to consider whether the need for the (organization) still exists and if the organization is achieving the objective originally intended when the authorization for the organization was established.”

    That might be appropriate for some groups affiliated with government undertakings, but it is ridiculous to act as if the need for park volunteers or their mission is subject to such bureaucratic meddling.

    The ongoing uncertainty would surely make it difficult to recruit members and contributions for these park advocates.

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