The Florida Park Service has won its fourth National Gold Medal for Excellence from the National Recreation and Park Association. Florida became the only state to win a third gold medal for excellence in 2013 and under the rules, the winning state cannot compete again for four years.
“We are proud of our staff, volunteers and partners for making Florida State Parks a gold medal system. Our goal is to protect the best of Florida’s natural and cultural resources while providing memorable experiences for our visitors”, said Eric Draper, Director of the Florida Park Service.
“We are delighted that our great state parks have been nationally recognized yet again. It is an incredible accomplishment,” said Ben Pingree, President of the Florida State Parks Foundation, the statewide nonprofit organization that supports the work of state parks.
The Foundation supports all the local Friends groups working with individual parks and the 14,000 strong army of volunteers who last year volunteered more than 1.3 million hours of their time.
In addition to the thousands of volunteers, 33,587 jobs are supported as a result of the state park system operations.
Julia Gill Woodward, Florida State Parks Foundation CEO, stressed both the environmental and economic significance of Florida’s state parks. “In the 2017-2018 fiscal year, our parks had a $2.4 billion economic impact, which is the amount of new dollars spent in local economies by park operations and non-local park visitors,” she said.
The Florida Park Service uses a money generation model designed for and used by the National Park Service to assess economic impact in the area around a park.
“The economic impact is very important to Florida’s economy,” Draper said. “Florida state parks are a big business.”
Florida’s state parks attract 28 million visitors last year from around the world with their diverse offering of more than 175 parks and 10 trails, 800,000 acres of land and 100 miles of beaches.
“State parks and trails have inspired residents and visitors for more than 84 years and thanks to our stewardship, they will be doing that for generations to come,” Draper said.