The Florida State Parks Foundation will celebrate 30 years of preserving, protecting, sustaining and growing Florida’s award-winning state parks throughout 2023.

Originally founded in 1993 as the Friends of Florida State Parks, then renamed in 2018, the Foundation held its first board meeting on March 20, 1993, at Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park.

Since then, the Foundation has raised and distributed millions to support Florida State Parks and tirelessly advocated for park interests while funding hundreds of park projects across the state.

“The past 30 years have been so successful because of brilliant, dedicated people who’ve devoted their lives to bettering Florida’s amazing state parks,” Foundation President Tammy Gustafson said. “It is our honor to continue their efforts as we work toward even greater things in 2023 and beyond.”

Over the last 30 years, the Foundation has:

Secured millions to support state park projects, improvements and operations.

Advocated for a record $233-million budget allocation for state parks from the Florida Legislature in 2022.

Designed and generated funding for and debuted the first ever accessible glass-bottom boat at Silver Springs State Park in Ocala, which allows visitors who use mobility devices to enjoy one of Florida’s most iconic experiences.

Earned a competitive grant of nearly $1 million to design and construct a full-scale representation of the historic Fort Mose at Fort Mose Historic State Park in St. Augustine, the site of the first legally sanctioned community for free Africans in what is now the United States.

Created the first specialty license plate in support of Florida’s state parks. The “Explore Our State Parks” license plate passed through the legislative process with bipartisan support in just one legislative session, set presale records and has already produced more than $150,000 to benefit state parks.

Launched the “Plant a Pine” campaign to restore native longleaf pines in Florida State Parks. To date, the Foundation has planted or is preparing to plant nearly 300,000 pines to support Florida’s wildlife and natural ecosystems.

Established a small grants program to assist citizen support organizations with park improvement projects. In 2023, the program will surpass more than $125,000 in distributions.

Provided funding for hundreds of trainings and professional development opportunities for park professionals through the John Kerschner Scholarship Fund.

The Foundation will unveil several 30th-anniversary elements on its social media channels and website throughout the year. The first, a detailed account of 30 major achievements from the last 30 years, debuted on Wednesday.

“Congratulations to the Florida State Parks Foundation on their 30th anniversary,” Florida State Parks Director Chuck Hatcher said. “The Foundation’s efforts are vital to our work in the parks, and we are thankful to have partners who are so dedicated to our state’s natural and cultural resources.”

About the Author: Foundation Staff