TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – More than 100 people, including several members of the Florida Legislature, joined the Florida State Parks Foundation and Live Wildly at the Florida Historic Capitol Museum for a reception celebrating Florida State Parks Day on Wednesday night.
Last week, Senator Ana Maria Rodriguez filed Senate Resolution 1808 declaring Jan. 31, 2024, as Florida State Parks Day at the Florida Capitol.
Sen. Rodriguez presented that resolution at the reception.
Attendees enjoyed a wide variety of educational and interactive experiences showcasing the unique natural, cultural and historical resources found in Florida’s state parks. These included a first-of-its-kind art capsule collection featuring original works inspired by Florida’s state parks.
Florida artists Deborah Mitchell and AMLgMATD unveiled new designs capturing scenes from Paynes Prairie Preserve, Myakka River, Wekiwa Springs and Jonathan Dickinson state parks, among others.
The evening also highlighted the close connection that state parks share with the Florida Wildlife Corridor, a statewide network of nearly 18 million acres of connected conservation land and waters crucial to Florida’s native wildlife.
“Our state parks are the best in the nation, and our lawmakers here in Tallahassee play an important role in ensuring that they have all they need to maintain that status,” said Julia Gill Woodward, CEO of the Florida State Parks Foundation. “We are grateful to everyone who attended the reception, and we hope that they left with a better understanding of what Florida State Parks and the Florida Wildlife Corridor mean to this state and its people.”
Guest speakers included Sen. Rodriguez, Representative Jennifer Canady and Representative Sam Garrison, as well as Florida Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Shawn Hamilton and Florida State Parks Director Chuck Hatcher.
Each of Florida’s four National Gold Medals for Excellence in Parks and Recreation Management, won between 1999 and 2019, were on display throughout the evening.
Florida is the only four-time winner of the National Gold Medal.
Florida’s state parks system features 175 parks, trails and historic sites from the Florida Panhandle to the Keys. Last year, Florida State Parks welcomed nearly 30 million visitors while generating an estimated economic impact of more than $3 billion.
Additionally, 75 state parks lie within the footprint of the Florida Wildlife Corridor and provide essential habitat for wildlife such as the Florida panther, manatee, alligator, gopher tortoise, Florida scrub-jay and more.
“This evening presented an incredible opportunity to share the beauty and significance of our state parks and wildlife corridor,” said Lisa Shipley, CEO of Live Wildly. “The Florida Historic Capitol Museum provided the perfect setting, and, as always, our state parks and wildlife corridor spoke for themselves to everyone who attended.”