More than 100 attendees, including producer Carlton Ward Jr. and director Eric Bendick, participate in film screening and environmental discussion panel

APOPKA, Fla. – The Florida State Parks Foundation and Live Wildly on Thursday welcomed more than 100 people, including Rep. Doug Bankson, Rep. Jennifer Canady and Florida Supreme Court Justice Charles Canady, for a screening of the feature film “Path of the Panther” at Wekiwa Springs State Park.

Following the film, Florida State Parks Foundation board president Tammy Gustafson hosted a discussion panel with conservation photographer and film producer Carlton Ward Jr., and director Eric Bendick, as well as Live Wildly CEO Lisa Shipley, Foundation board member Don Philpott and Dr. Daniel Smith of the University of Central Florida’s Department of Biology.

The panel discussed the Florida Wildlife Corridor, the significance of land conservation in central Florida and how Florida’s award-winning state parks play a crucial role in providing habitat and safe passage for the state’s imperiled wildlife.

Ward and Bendick also shared insights about the making of the film and accompanying “Path of the Panther” book.

“We had a simply incredible evening, and I think everyone left feeling inspired to do all they can to protect and preserve the land that our precious wildlife needs to thrive,” Gustafson said. “Holding an event like this at Wekiwa Springs State Park, which is such a wonderful natural space in the Orlando area, made it that much more special.”

Added Shipley: “‘Path of the Panther’ has inspired millions of people to learn and act so that our wild areas and the wildlife that call them home are preserved for future generations. And, of course, having Carlton and Eric on-hand to share their perspectives and answer questions really made for an enriching experience.”

Thursday’s event was the first of two announced “Path of the Panther” screenings to be held in one of Florida’s state parks. A second screening will take place at Camp Helen State Park in Panama City Beach on Nov. 30.

Wekiwa Springs and Camp Helen state parks are two of 75 Florida State Parks to fall within the Florida Wildlife Corridor.

“After seeing the turnout and reaction to our first ‘Path of the Panther’ event, we are even more excited to share this important film with as many people as possible,” said Julia Gill Woodward, CEO of the Florida State Parks Foundation. “We are looking forward to bringing this experience to Camp Helen State Park and, beyond that, amplifying the role that our state parks play in supporting Florida’s native wildlife wherever possible.”

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