• 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.

    Read more here:

  • 04/09/2014 7:25 PM | Florida State Parks Foundation (Administrator)

    A pair of bills moving through the House and Senate is raising concerns with volunteers who raise money for state park improvements.

    HB 1153 and SB 1194 would establish standard reporting requirements for citizen support organizations and direct support organizations and a process for sunset review by the Legislature every five years. 

    Friends of Florida State Parks is opposing the bills because of concerns the law change could discourage donors who couldn't trust that their projects would get built if the groups face possible elimination, Sally Hess of St. Petersburg, president of Friends of Florida State Parks, said Tuesday. 

    "We finally started talking to the newspapers because we weren't getting any response from the Legislature," Hess said.

    HB 1153 passed its second committee stop Tuesday by an 11-1 vote with no speakers in opposition and minimal debate. The Senate passed its two committee stops without opposing votes.
  • 04/01/2014 5:30 PM | Florida State Parks Foundation (Administrator)

    SEBRING - When Highlands Hammock State Park Manager Brian Pinson figured the park needed a new tractor last year, he didn't seek extra funding from the state.

    "If we had to wait for the state, it would never happen," he said.

    Instead, the Friends of Highlands Hammock State Park, the park's Citizen Support Organization (CSO), not only met that need but invested $84,000 into the park during the past year, said its president Mike Jarvis.

    Out of 171 state parks, Highlands Hammock is one of 60 that has a CSO, Pinson said. Other departments in state government also have these groups.

    Now, some supporters are concerned a bill in the state Legislature, Florida House Bill 1153 and a companion bill in the state Senate, could negatively affect these groups.

    Concerns were raised on the Facebook page for the Friends of Highlands Hammock State Park and Sunday evening before the start of a tram tour.

    The bill, which apparently at the very least requires CSOs to do more paperwork, has passed through committees in the Senate and was to have been heard today in a House committee.

    Pinson said he's aware some people higher up in the Department of Environmental Protection have raised concerns the bill will affect the CSOs.

    State Sen. Denise Grimsley, R-Sebring, said she hasn't decided how she'll vote on the bill when it comes to the Senate floor. She said she's waiting for more information on the concerns raised.

    According to a legislative summary, the bill would require all CSOs to publicly report information.

    Jarvis said he doesn't believe that would be a problem since the Friends of Highlands Hammock spend all their money to support the park.

    The bill summary also states that CSOs of the Division of Recreation and Parks would expire as of Oct. 1, 2019, unless the Legislature allows them to continue.

    Ultimately, Pinson said, the parks and other state programs must live with what the Legislature decides, but the Friends of Highlands Hammock have provided crucial support when the park needed new equipment and the money wasn't available from the state.

    The uncertainty comes at a time when the Friends of Hammock State Park have worked to increase the number of public activities that raise money for the park. Those have included monthly concerts, tram tours at night that allow people to see fireflies and other creatures, and a Halloween event.

    Pinson said even more events are being planned.

    (863) 386-5834

    - See more at:
  • 03/25/2014 12:42 PM | Florida State Parks Foundation (Administrator)

    Each year a committee of the Friends of Florida State Parks calls for nominations for outstanding volunteers and activities from Park managers throughout the state. This year we received 95 nominations and there were so many outstanding people and activities going on in our parks that the Nominations Committee had considerable difficulty making their final choices.

    Outstanding CSO of the Year  Friends of Highlands Hammock State Park, Inc. supporting Highlands Hammock State Park in Sebring.  Although this is a small group, they are able to accomplish big things. They sponsored a series of 6 concerts, and a Turkey Trot Run during 2013 plus firewood sales and tram rides. These fundraising activities have allowed the Friends to purchase 2 Kubotas (vehicles), a 6 passenger Polaris, equipment such as chain saws, weed eaters, brush cutters and fuel for staff use.  They were also able to share the cost of a necessary paving project with the county. Not only is the CSO a real friend to the staff, but they have a working relationship with many community organizations, and were able to provide lunch for people working on a scrub jay restoration project in the park. This is an organization we can all be proud of.

    Outstanding Male Volunteer   Darrel Smith-Highlands Hammock State Park.

    Darrel Smith has served over 1457 hours in 2013. He is involved in all aspects of the park and contributes positively through education, interpretation, maintenance, research and serving on the Board and as an officer, the treasurer, for the Friends of Highlands Hammock. He is a vital link in connecting the park to the community of Sebring. He is curator of the CCC Museum, conducts a one-man living history program for the park and other organizations, and conducts park tram tours. He has also researched the young men who worked for the CCC and has created oral histories. He has worked with the Division of Historical Resources and the University of Florida in conducting his research. Darrel’s vision is to construct a CCC Village, and that has now become a goal in the park management plan.  Darrel’s wife, Candy, his daughter Vicki and son-in-law, Mike Jarvis, also volunteer.

    Outstanding Female Volunteer  Dolores (Doe) Schuster – Henderson Beach State Park.

    Doe is a friend and avid supporter of the Florida Park Service. Since becoming a volunteer she has volunteered over 3500 hours, adding over 1300 this year. For the past 6 years she has been the creative core of the Henderson Beach, Fred Gannon Rocky Bayou State Parks interpretive and volunteer program. She has assisted the staff with the development and presentation of interpretive and Community Outreach programs. She is best known for her positive supportive attitude and her dedication to the parks. She works closely with community organizations, has developed a series of interpretive programs, and works with the Junior Lifeguard Program. In addition to these, Doe also participates in routine maintenance. She is always looking for new ways to spread the information she has, and promote the parks.

    Outstanding Male Youth Volunteer  Frank Ward-Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park
    Although Frank has only been volunteering since August, he has made a great impression on the Rangers because of his work performance, level of maturity, self-motivation and other positive characteristics. He began as a Park Host and quickly advanced to work in the Wildlife Department, where he assists with closing procedures, and cleaning and maintenance of the wildlife exhibits. He has an interest and knowledge of exotic plant removal, and is always enthusiastic about helping with anything, including recently forming a community Dragon Boat Team. He has a deep interest in Florida’s flora and fauna. At 17, Frank is an intern at the Coastal and Aquatic Management Area assisting with spring data, water testing and the coastal oyster restoration project. Frank volunteers after school and for special events. For his future, Frank is interested in biology, ecology, and medicine.
    Outstanding Female Youth Volunteer  Erica Shewbart-Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park

    Erica volunteers as a Park Host, a summer camp counselor, and part of the Outreach Team. She has a gift for working with children younger than she and provides a great role model for them. She is professional in her dealings with all park visitors. She is a pro at handing the animals as well as secure in dealing with people. She follows all the safety rules. She is self-motivated and mature, in addition to other positive attributes. Her goal is to be a veterinarian in a facility such as Homosassa. In addition to volunteering at the state park, she also has volunteered at a local horse farm offering assistance with abused and rescued horses since she was 10 years old. She also participates in the nursery program at her church, taking care of infants who have been left there. Erica is 14 years old and has been volunteering at Homosassa for a year, after school and weekends. She has truly become a youth ambassador for the park.

    Outstanding Special Event   Battle of Bloody Mose-Fort Mose Historic State Park

    This battle is the only side vs. side battle reenactment in St. John’s County despite the county’s historical significance. It depicts what happened as a result of enslaved people coming to Spanish Florida to be free. The War of Jenkins’s Ear was between the Spanish and the British for political reasons, that the Spanish providing this sanctuary to persons the British claimed they owned. The Battle of Bloody Mose was a significant battle in this war.

    Although this battle takes place on one day, June 22, in 2013, it is a yearlong project. Next year the Battle will take place for 2 days.

    The event would cost over $5000 to present, but all day trolley services were donated by Old Town Trolley and hay bales were donated by Mr. Mow It All, reducing expenses by $2600. The CSO provides the rest.

    This event sheds a positive, new light on the site, providing visitors with a family friendly event while learning an important part of the state’s and county’s history. Many return to learn more about the history and appreciate the beauty of present day Fort Mose.

    Park staff and 112 volunteers work this event for a total of 962 volunteer hours. The PSS is the main staff member who works on the planning stage of the event and Richard Shortlidge has been the main driving CSO member behind it.

    Outstanding Team  Education Team-John D. MacArthur Beach State Park

    The Education Team consists of 23 people who have contributed 1,889 hours of combined volunteers hours dedicated to natural science education for the public, private, and charter schools of the area. In 2011 with the completion of the Pew Family Natural Science Education Center, the Friends used grant money to employ a Director of Education, Janice Kerber.  She updated and wrote the natural science education curriculum to meet the the New Generation Science Standards established by the state of Florida. The 10 programs were approved by Palm Beach County School District, qualifying the park for free a free bus provided by the District to transport children to the facility for a field experience. During 2011-12 she trained volunteers and staff, and in 2012-13, the dedicated team was facilitating programs every Tuesday through Friday for approximately 45 students each day. By the end of the year, this team has served 4,600 students. For 2012-13, the numbers are larger. This team has had an overwhelming impact on both the community and the park. This team costs approximately $72,000 per school year, earned through the fundraising efforts of the Friends and the park building budget.

    Outstanding Long Term Project  Springs Interpretive Trail-Wes Skiles Peacock Springs State Park

    The goal of this trail was to provide a virtual cave superimposed over the cave system.  This was a three year/three phase project costing over $17,000. It was completed in August with the installation of an historical/cultural kiosk. Although conceived in 2005 with Peacock Springs CSO committee members Janet Stape, Michael Poucher, and Kelly Jessop, it was placed on hold until the CSO became the North Florida Springs Alliance in 2007, when it became the primary goal of the NFSA. The kiosk received partial funding from the Friends of Florida State Parks as well as some corporate funding. The first eight kiosks were funded by corporate sponsors and local businesses. The 20 plant ID sponsors were primarily individuals. After the installation of the trail, any visitor can experience and appreciate the complexity and beauty of the cave system beneath their feet as well as the ecosystem around them. Team members included Janet Stape, Michael Poucher, Kelly Jessop, Jim Womble, Kevin Jones, Chris Jones, Jim Wyatt, Tom McMillan, Ken Charlesworth, Rick Crawfold, Beth Murphy, Jill Heinerth, Dr. Mike Stine, Steve Boyer, and countless other NFSA members,and staff members Craig, Liney, Myra Carter and Richard West.

    Short Term Project  ADA Kayak/Canoe Launch-Oscar Scherer State Park

    This project began in February and was finished by October 2013. Its overall cost  was $24,000, $5000 of which the Friends paid. Installation took over 200 hours of time from the Friends, volunteer staff and the dock manufacturer. This dock continues to help this park provide access for all. Since its installation they have been able to take out 30 individuals with varying kinds of mental and physical disabilities who would never have access to this experience without this dock. They have worked with Special Olympians, the elderly and are starting a Wounded Warrior project to get our disabled veterans out into the park.

  • 03/25/2014 10:34 AM | Florida State Parks Foundation (Administrator)

    Beach-nesting shorebirds need peace and quiet to survive
    During spring and summer on Florida beaches, shorebirds build nests out of sand and shells and hatch chicks that can barely be seen. So well-camouflaged are the nests, eggs and chicks of shorebirds like the snowy plover that they can easily be stepped on or missed unless people know to watch out for them.
    The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is reminding beachgoers to be on the lookout and avoid disturbing bird nurseries on the Atlantic and Gulf coasts of Florida. Among the state’s beach-nesting shorebirds facing conservation challenges are the snowy plover, least tern, black skimmer, American oystercatcher and Wilson’s plover.
    People at the beach, including those paddling canoes, kayaks and boards along the shore, can help beach-nesting shorebirds by following basic guidelines:
    Keep your distance. If birds become agitated or leave their nests, you are too close. A general rule is to stay at least 300 feet from a nest. Birds calling out loudly and dive-bombing are giving signals you need to back off.
    Never intentionally force birds to fly or run. They use up energy they need for nesting, and eggs and chicks may be left vulnerable to the sun’s heat and to predators.
    Respect posted areas. Avoid posted nesting sites and use designated walkways when possible.
    It’s best not to take pets to the beach, but if you do, keep them on a leash.
    Keep the beach clean and do not feed wildlife. Food scraps attract predators such as raccoons and crows. Litter on beaches can entangle birds and other wildlife.
    Spread the word. If you see people disturbing nesting birds, gently let them know how their actions may hurt the birds’ survival. If they continue to disturb nesting birds, report their activities to the FWC’s Wildlife Alert hotline at 888-404-FWCC (3922), #FWC or *FWC on your cell phone or by texting You also can report nests that are not posted to Wildlife Alert.
    Wildlife photographers also should follow the rules that protect beach-nesting shorebirds:

    Remain behind the posted area, with no part of you or your camera equipment extending beyond the string or signs.
    Don’t exceed 10 minutes. Too much time photographing near the nest may stress the birds.
    Don’t “push” birds around the beach. Stay far enough away so the birds do not change their behavior in response to your presence. They need to feed and rest without disturbance.
    For more information, go to and download the “Share the Beach with Beach-Nesting Birds” brochure. Or go to the Florida Shorebird Alliance at

  • 03/24/2014 9:16 AM | Florida State Parks Foundation (Administrator)
    If you haven’t visited Colt Creek State Park north of Lakeland, Saturday 29 may be a good time to start.
    A fledgling group called Friends of Colt Creek State Park has organized a series of events next weekend to highlight the park’s beauty and recreation potential.
    The events will run from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday
Powered by Wild Apricot Membership Software