• 03/27/2019 8:11 PM | Florida State Parks Foundation (Administrator)

    The Oscars may take top billing among the entertainment world of awards but there are some other ceremonies that are right up there with them. 

    These events are, of course, the awards presented each year to recognize the outstanding contributions made by our amazing army of volunteers in Florida State Parks!

    We know what an invaluable, indispensable resource our volunteers are. The facts speak for themselves and it is up to every one of us to shout them from the roof tops so that everyone knows what it is that we do that makes our state parks the best in the nation.

    Hot off the presses are the statistics for last year:

    Nearly 14,500 volunteers contributed 1.3 million hours of service to 175 state parks.

    Volunteer support was the equivalent of 623 Full-Time Employees (FTEs) with a value added of $32 million.

    Volunteers were 59% of the park service’s total workforce (FPS has 1,050 FTEs).

    83 CSOs, non-profit organizations of volunteers, raised and contributed an estimated $4 million to complete all types of park projects benefiting the state park system.

    CSOs fund park infrastructure, boardwalks, interpretive panels, sponsor special events, provide visitors’ tours and presentations, enhance universal access to natural and cultural resources, purchase vehicles, equipment and supplies.

    Volunteers serve in all areas of Visitor Services, Administration, Resource Management, Protection and Maintenance:

    • 69,677 hours to Administration – defined as clerical, filing, telephone work, certain types of research, tracking volunteer hours, orientation and training, data entry, purchasing, grant writing, and more!
    • 588,900 hours to Maintenance – defined as repairs and facility improvements, equipment and grounds, carpentry, trail maintenance, plumbing, masonry, trash pick-up, restroom upkeep, vehicle and equipment maintenance, small engine work, electrical work, construction projects, and more!
    • 11,717 hours to Protection – defined as visitor safety, employee safety, emergency preparedness, emergency response, rule enforcement, voluntary compliance, facility and environmental protection, First Aid, CPR, state/vehicle/watercraft operation, and more!
    • 141,265 hours to Resource Management – defined as both natural and cultural resource management including exotic species identification and control, plant and animal identification, ecological or cultural restoration, prescribed fire, lake watch, species monitoring, seed collection, historic collections management, research, and more!
    • 386,614 hours to Visitor Services – defined as providing information, customer service, interpretation, docent, historical and re-enactment, assisting visitors in the ranger station, museum or visitor center, tram rides, concessions, special events, boat tours, educational programs, guided walks, public speaking, volunteer management, visitor program evaluations and more!

    Volunteers are the life blood of the state parks. Thanks to each and every one of you for your service! 

  • 03/24/2019 10:00 PM | Florida State Parks Foundation (Administrator)

    The Florida State Parks Foundation has two important announcements this month! The first is to introduce you to Julia Gill Woodward, our new Chief Executive Officer, and the second is a call to action as the Florida Legislature discusses the 2019-2020 budget for the Florida Park Service.

    We are delighted to announce the hiring of Julia Gill Woodward as our new Chief Executive Officer effective immediately.

    "I'm honored and thrilled to serve as the Chief Executive Officer for the Florida State Parks Foundation. As a ninth generation Floridian, my love for our state and our award-winning park system runs deep. I can't imagine a better job than to help protect, preserve and sustain our state's natural treasures for generations to come," she said.

    Foundation President Ben Pingree said, “The search for a new CEO has been long and thorough because we were determined to wait until we could find the right person for the job. With Julia, we are confident that we now have the right person in place to lead us as we embrace a challenging yet exciting future.”

    Julia is a dynamic leader with more than ten years of campaign and government experience. She has worked across the spectrum in Florida politics – including managing multiple campaigns, serving as a Congressional Chief of Staff in Washington DC and most recently, managing Gwen Graham’s Florida gubernatorial bid. 

    In addition to her campaign and governmental management experience, Julia has helped raise more than $25 million dollars for candidates and organizations throughout the course of her career.

    One of her first actions as CEO was to hold a press conference in Tallahassee in support of the Governor’s request for $54 million funding for the Florida Park Service (FPS) in this year’s budget. So far, both the Senate and House have indicated that their FPS allocations will fall short of this amount. The Governor has also requested an additional $100 million to go to Florida Forever.

    “It is imperative that the Florida Park Service receives adequate funding to ensure that our award-winning state parks continue to be the best that they can be. When you compare the $54 million that has been requested with the $3 billion in economic impact that the state parks generate, it is hard to think of any other example that is a better return on the investment,” Woodward said.

  • 01/24/2019 3:20 PM | Florida State Parks Foundation (Administrator)

    The Florida State Parks Foundation is pleased to announce the addition of four new members to the Board of Directors: Gwen Graham, Wendy Spencer, Karen Cyphers and Dale Brill.

    "I am delighted to welcome our four new board members," said Ben Pingree, Foundation President. "These individuals bring a wealth of experience and expertise in their fields and will be tremendous assets to the Foundation as we further our mission of supporting Florida's fabulous state parks, the best in the nation."

    "These four individuals are an outstanding statement of who we are as a Foundation," said President Elect, Gil Ziffer. 

    As U.S. Representative for Florida's 2nd congressional district from 2015 to 2017, Gwen Graham made protecting Florida's environment a priority. She co-sponsored bipartisan legislation to stop oil drilling off Florida's beaches, rallied Florida's congressional delegation to support the Apalachicola Bay, and supported Florida counties in their campaigns against fracking. In 2018, she made defending Florida's natural treasures a key issue of her gubernatorial campaign and she is dedicated to protecting Florida's state parks. She is the daughter of pioneering environmentalist, former Governor and former United States Senator Bob Graham. 

    Wendy Spencer serves as President and CEO of Leadership Florida. Prior to this she served as Chief Executive Officer at the Corporation for National and Community Service which administers AmeriCorps, VISTA, Senior Corps and promotes service across the nation. She is a former Director of the Florida Park Service, and from 2003 to 2012, she served as the Chief Executive Officer of the Florida Governor's Commission on Volunteerism, commonly known as Volunteer Florida. 

    Karen Halperin Cyphers, PhD., is vice president of research with Sachs Media Group. Formerly she was director of health care policy with the Florida Medical Association and served as deputy policy chief for health and human services in the Governor's Office of Policy and Budget. She is also an adjunct instructor of public policy at Florida State. 

    Dale Brill, PhD., is Senior Vice President Research and Community Development, Orlando Economic Partnership. He was formerly President of the Florida Chamber Foundation, Chief Marketing Officer of Visit Florida, Dean of e-commerce, General Motors Corp., and Executive Director of the Governor's Office if Tourism, Trade and Economic Development.

    The Foundation, founded in 1993 as Friends of Florida State Parks and renamed in 2018, is a 501(c)3 nonprofit corporation whose mission is to support and help sustain the Florida Park Service, its 175 award-winning parks and trails, local Friends groups and more than 13,000 park volunteers.

    It does this through programs that preserve and protect state parks, educate visitors about the value of state parks, encourage community engagement and active use of state parks, and advocacy.

    The volunteer Board of Directors represent private and public sectors as well as local and statewide interests.

  • 01/24/2019 2:55 PM | Florida State Parks Foundation (Administrator)

    No matter how you look at it, Florida’s award-winning state parks are big business. Last year, they attracted 28 million visitors and had a $2.4 billion direct economic impact on the state. The parks supported 33,587 jobs statewide and generated $158 million in annual Florida sales tax revenue.

    These would be very impressive figures if this was a private sector company – it is even more remarkable when you consider that this is a state-run organization within the Department of Environmental Protection.

    The Florida Park Service has two things going for it that makes it special. The first thing is financial. It is operated very professionally and successfully as if it were a big business, which is exactly what it is. The FPS is around 80 percent self-sufficient, a figure that most other state park systems nationwide would be envious of.

    The second thing is all the people who are associated with the parks and make them so great. Eric Draper, Florida State Park Director, loves to say ‘people make the parks’ – and he is right.

    These people include more than 1,000 dedicated and passionate staff who work in the parks alongside the 15,000 committed volunteers who last year contributed an amazing 1.3 million volunteer hours. This group also includes the concessionaires who operate everything from canoe rentals and stores to horse riding and restaurants that enhance the visitor experience, and the thousands of other people who are employed outside the park but whose jobs rely on the visitors and services the park guests enjoy.

    And, of course, these people include the over 28 million visitors who visit and recreate in the parks every year. Many of these people are frequent visitors, sometimes even daily visitors, who enjoy the parks for their walks, runs, swims or birdwatching. Many of these visitors come from around the globe, perhaps stumbling upon the state parks by chance, and cannot then get enough of them.

    It is so heartwarming to talk to a family from Britain who discovered a state park on a previous visit to Florida and made sure they had more time to explore it when they came back on vacation.

    So, despite all the challenges that Florida State Parks face – such as hurricanes, aging infrastructure, and competition from other attractions – there will always be a need for them because the people want them! As the state’s population increases, the demand for access to undisturbed public spaces will increase and the pressure on the parks will grow.

    It is up to all of us – all the people that make the parks – to ensure that our state parks are protected and preserved not just for our own pleasure, but for all the generations to come.

  • 12/17/2018 2:03 PM | Florida State Parks Foundation (Administrator)

    Don Philpott, Executive Director

    Florida’s magnificent, award-winning state parks have won the national Gold Medal for Excellence a record three times, something that no other state has been able to achieve.

    Our 175 state parks and trails attract more than 30 million visitors a year and pump over $3 billion into the Florida economy. Yet this all comes at a cost.

    As visitation increases so does the wear and tear and the need to maintain an infrastructure that in many cases is already in urgent need of replacement. A recent survey of parks found that the cost of repairing and restoring this aging infrastructure statewide is about $1 billion. In addition, there are many capital projects needed to enhance the visitor experience and ensure the parks remain vibrant for future generations.

    While the parks are increasingly self-supporting, currently over 80% self-sufficient, there is no money available for this enormous backlog of work and the problem is further exacerbated when hurricanes like Irma and Michael strike causing tens of millions of dollars’ worth of damage that was not budgeted for.

    So as 2018 draws to a close, there are many ways that you can show your support of Florida’s parks and all that they stand for. You can, of course, volunteer and there are scores of volunteer opportunities especially if you have special skills and talents. You get to work in some of Florida’s most beautiful environments alongside like-minded volunteers who love the parks as much as you do.

    You can also choose to make a gift either to your local park or to the Florida State Parks Foundation, the statewide group, that supports the work of all the local Friends groups and an army of 11,000 volunteers.

    Giving can be in the form of an end of year donation or you can check with your employer to see if they have a monthly giving plan where your donation is taken out of your pay check and sent to the nonprofit of your choice.

    However one chooses to give, December is the most popular time to make a donation. In 2017, Americans gave $410 billion to charities – up 5% over 2016 – and nearly one third of that was given in the month of December. That means that in 31 days, Americans gave $125 billion to nonprofit organizations.

    If you love our state parks, please consider making an end of year donation to help support them. No amount is too small, and every cent goes towards projects in the park. Thank you.

  • 12/17/2018 1:43 PM | Florida State Parks Foundation (Administrator)

    Paula Russo, Immediate Past President

    The Florida State Parks Foundation believes it’s vital that children grow up understanding the importance of protecting our natural environment and knowing of Florida’s deep history and past cultures. Our state parks are ideal adjunct classrooms and two of the Foundation’s most important programs work to get as many kids into the parks as possible. 

    The first of the two programs is called, Learning in Florida’s Environment (LIFE), which is a model for science-based environmental education on public conservation lands. Each program represents a partnership between a Florida State Park and one or more school districts to bring students outdoors to learn science through hands-on field labs facilitated by educators, scientists, and land/resource managers.

    With financial help, a LIFE Program site is in development now at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park in Key Largo. The park has renovated and transformed a former storage building into a perfect classroom and now it needs to be outfitted with tables, chairs, white board, and equipment like microscopes, and plankton and seine nets. These items, and much more, is what it takes to “grow” scientists. It’s a long list and costs add up fast.

    The second program is known as Yellow Buses in the Parks. Its purpose is to pay for field trip transportation costs which are often out of reach for many school districts in Florida, especially in economically depressed areas. More field trips mean more school children can benefit from these great educational experiences in the parks!

    If you’re looking for a worthy cause to support with a holiday or year-end tax-deductible gift, please consider these programs. Your contribution will help us expand these programs and reach more children.  Click here and be sure to indicate which program you’d like your donation to go to! 

  • 12/14/2018 11:53 AM | Florida State Parks Foundation (Administrator)

    As the year draws to a close, it is also time to think about our volunteers who give so much. Since 1998, the Board of Directors of the Florida State Parks Foundation has annually recognized outstanding service of individuals and groups of volunteers in Florida State Parks. This year we have simplified the submission process by creating an online nomination portal. Please help get the word out and encourage nominations. The committee looks forward to reviewing the submissions -- it is truly an honor and privilege to do so.

    Last year the number of award categories was increased so that more volunteers could be recognized, and this proved enormously popular. For 2018 awards, a volunteer can be nominated in any appropriate category or in several categories if relevant. We will also recognize individuals who have 20, 25- and 30-years cumulative volunteer service. They will receive a special pin.

    If you know of an individual or a group of volunteers that deserves nominating, please speak with your park manager or Park Services Specialist. The deadline for online submissions is December 20, which can be submitted here.

    Nominations categories are:

    • 1.     ADULT VOLUNTEER: One person aged 18 years and above.
    • 2.     CORPORATE: A group of company employees working on one park project.
    • 3.     LONG PROJECT: Those CSO/park combined partnership projects that have taken more than one year to complete. 
    • 4.     SHORT PROJECT: Those CSO/park combined partnership projects that have taken less than one year to complete.
    • 5.     SPECIAL EVENT:  A one-time event or an annual event.  A recurring annual event may be nominated but it must have occurred within 12 months of date the nomination is submitted.
    • 6.     YEARS OF SERVICE: Awards will be given to any individual contributing an accumulation of 20, 25, & 30 years volunteer service.  These need not be consecutive years, but cumulative.
    • 7.     YOUTH VOLUNTEER: Anyone under 18 years of age.
    • 8.     ADMINISTRATION:  The term ADMINISTRATION refers to clerical work, filing, answering the telephone, certain types of research, tracking volunteer hours, orientation and training, data entry, purchasing, grant writing or tracking, etc. 
    • 9.     MAINTENANCE: The term MAINTENANCE refers to upkeep, repairs and improvements to facilities, equipment and grounds, carpentry, trail maintenance, plumbing, masonry, painting, preventative maintenance, mowing, trash pick-up, restroom upkeep, vehicle and equipment maintenance, small engine work, electrical work, construction projects, etc.
    • 10.  PROTECTION: The term PROTECTION refers to visitor safety, employee safety, emergency preparedness, emergency response, law enforcement, rule enforcement   , voluntary compliance, facility and environmental protection, First Aid, CPR, state vehicle/ watercraft operation, etc. 
    • 11.  RESOURCE MANAGEMENT: The term RESOURCE MANAGEMENT includes both natural and cultural resources and refers to exotic species identification and control, plant and animal identification, ecological or cultural restoration, prescribed fire, lake watch, species monitoring, seed collecting, historical collections management, research, etc.
    • 12.  VISITOR SERVICES:  The term VISITOR SERVICES refer to providing information and access, customer service, interpretation, docent, historical and re-enactment, assisting visitors in the ranger station or visitor center, tram rides, concessions, special events, boat tours, educational programs, guided walks, public speaking, volunteer management, visitor program evaluations, etc.

    In fiscal year 2017-18, volunteers contributed more than 1.3 million hours of service. These awards recognize the many volunteers who give so much of themselves to the state park system. We look forward to honoring them for their dedicated service!

    Remember, the deadline for online submissions is December 20, which can be submitted here.

  • 12/13/2018 5:08 PM | Florida State Parks Foundation (Administrator)

    By Don Philpott, Executive Director

    If your CSO hasn’t made plans for an end of year donations campaign, think again because it is not too late! For motivation, just think about the following two statistics. In 2017,

    Americans gave $410 billion to charities – up 5% over 2016 – AND, nearly one third of all annual giving occurs in the month of December. That means that in 31 days, Americans give $125 billion to nonprofit organizations. Corporate giving is also on the rise -- $20.77 billion in 2017, up 8% over 2016 – and while very important, this pales in comparison to private donations.

    If you don’t ask, you don’t receive, so if you are planning a major capital project or want to raise funds for improvements in your park, get to work now on crafting the right messages for your target audiences. Remember, you have several target audiences and for the best results, they each need a message tailored specifically to them and delivered in the way they are most likely to respond to it. Your CSO needs to deliver the appropriate year-end appeal that resonates with the donor on a personal level. Here is some helpful information on your different donors:

    Millennials: Age 22-36 (26% of the population) are most likely to donate via mobile means—they watch campaign videos and prefer to give via crowdfunding. These supporters respond to text messages and are active daily on social media. 40% of millennial donors are enrolled in a monthly giving program and 46% donate to crowd funding campaigns.

    Generation X: Age 37-51 (20% of the population) are most likely to fundraise on behalf of your organization, make a pledge, and volunteer. These supporters respond to email messages, phone calls and texts and stay up-to-date on social feeds and trends. 49% are enrolled in a monthly giving program, 64% volunteer locally, and 56% attend fundraising events.

    Baby Boomers: Age 52-66 (24% of the population) are most likely to make recurring gifts. These supporters respond to phone calls, check email regularly, and are mainstream adopters of text messaging and social media. 49% are enrolled in a monthly giving program, 71% volunteer locally, and 58% attend fundraising events.

    Greatest Generation: Age 67 and up (12% of the population) represent 26% of total US giving. Donors are most likely to respond to direct mail and give by check. Wealthy seniors are more likely to own smartphones and donate by credit card. 88% give to charity and they tend to give 25% more frequently than younger groups

    Perhaps the most important statistic I can share is that 12% of all giving takes place in the last three days of the year so you still have time to create a plan and execute it! 

  • 11/26/2018 7:55 PM | Florida State Parks Foundation (Administrator)

    Unless you have lived through a direct hit from a hurricane it is hard to grasp the extent of the devastation and destruction caused, even after seeing dramatic images on television.

    When Hurricane Michael struck the Panhandle last month, park rangers from around the state assembled in strike teams and were sent to help the recovery. Even they were staggered at the damage caused both in physical and human terms. That is why the Florida State Parks Foundation was honored to step in and make available a $50,000 hardship fund for those most affected by the disaster.

    As mentioned in last month’s newsletter, recovery is a long process. It starts immediately by providing emergency help to people who have lost everything – their homes, their vehicles, their personal possessions.

    The next phase involves clearing roads and campgrounds, making buildings safe, getting equipment up and running again, and doing whatever else is needed to reopen parks to visitors again. This is where the Florida Park Service’s staff and army of volunteers plays such a crucial role, and this is what is happening right now at many of the worst hit parks in the panhandle.

    The final stage, which can often take years, is to restore the habitat to its original state, to repair damaged buildings, many of them historic, and to try to find the funding to do all this. Recovery is not just a very long process, it is an extremely costly one.

    That is why, as we near year’s end, the Foundation is asking all its members and friends to help in any way they can. It can be a donation, no matter how big or small. It may be the offer of time to assist as a volunteer in the clean-up or work alongside rangers in the many other tasks to be done.

    And, please remember that end of the year charitable gifts are tax deductible and can do so much good. You can go to the Foundation donation page by clicking here.

    You can also go the Florida State Park website to learn more about the massive recovery effort. It is worth quoting here the words of Warren Poplin, bureau chief of FPS District 1 which covers all the most seriously hit parks:

    “I know that many of our park service family are curious to the status of us here in District 1. We have several staff that have suffered impacts from the storm. The damage ranges from total loss, to limbs on roofs. The devastation is surreal when observed in person, photos do not capture the full spectrum of the destruction. Some of our staff reside in Lynn Haven, Panama City, Port St. Joe, Apalachicola, Marianna, Sneads, Bristol, and all points in between. Some lived in the parks and others nearby. 

    I am so impressed by our community and park service family. I am proud to be part of the Florida Park Service and to work with such dedicated, compassionate people. Staff from surrounding parks and locations have stepped up by providing assistance with tarping, laying shingles, removing trees and limbs from roofs. The support from the other districts is nothing less than amazing. The strike team members have volunteered to be away from their families, comforts of home, and familiar surroundings to be displaced, some without A/C or the ability to shower. The work that they are doing is extremely difficult, and they are putting in many hours. Their effort to help us get our parks back open is nothing less than amazing. They will be coming home with many stories of the work they have done and the devastation they have observed.  

    Those of us that live in the affected areas have learned how dependent we have become on fresh water, electricity, A/C, and communications. Services are slowly coming back.

    Thank you all for thinking of us, we are looking forward to rebuilding and opening our parks for our visitors.”  

    With your help we can help the park staff most in need and get the parks up and running – and open again. Please do whatever you can to assist.

    Thank you.

    Don Philpott, Executive Director 

  • 11/26/2018 7:23 PM | Florida State Parks Foundation (Administrator)

    Hurricane Michael blocked access to Florida Caverns State Park. Trees littered the roads and access paths. Florida State Park staff were forced to climb over fallen trees and debris to get in and out of the parks while assessing the damage. Strike teams from around the state used chainsaws, tractors and bulldozers to clear roads and debris. The first priority was to ensure the safety of resident staff.

    With Hurricane Michael coming ashore in nearby Mexico Beach, T.H. Stone Memorial St. Joseph Peninsula State Park felt its full force. The park, located on Cape San Blas between the Gulf of Mexico and St. Joseph Bay, experienced massive winds and waves. Roads, campgrounds and buildings were demolished, and sand buried entire portions of the park. The storm surge was so powerful, it created two inlets, cutting through the park and connecting the bay and the gulf. With one inlet more than 20-feet deep, portions of the park are now only accessible by boat.

    On the banks of Lake Seminole, Three Rivers State Park and its lush forest of pine and hardwood trees was an ideal place to camp, hike or picnic. On October 10, 2018 the park changed forever. Located in the small town of Sneads, Three Rivers State Park and the surrounding community was hit hard by Hurricane Michael. Trees fell or snapped in half. Facilities were damaged, and campsites buried in debris. The road was impassable. Immediately after the storm passed, state park teams from across the state came to help. For days, they sawed trees and moved debris. Staff and volunteers cleared roads and assessed damage. The Florida Park Service, along with the Army Corps of Engineers, continues to work to get the park back where it can once again be a place to come relax and escape.

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