We are all proud of the fact that Florida is the only three-time winner of the Gold Medal honoring the nation’s best state park system. The Florida Park Service is one of the largest in the country with 175 state parks, trails and historic sites spanning nearly 800,000 acres and 100 miles of beaches. From swimming and diving in Florida’s rivers and springs to birding and fishing or hiking and riding on natural scenic trails, Florida’s state parks offer year-round outdoor activities for all ages and abilities. Battle re-enactments and Native American festivals celebrate Florida’s history, while art shows, museums and lighthouses offer a window into Florida’s cultural heritage.

The goal of the Florida Park Service, supported by the Florida State Parks Foundation and thousands of volunteers, is to create a sense of place by showing park visitors the best of Florida’s diverse natural and cultural sites. Florida’s state parks are managed and preserved for enjoyment by this and future generations through providing appropriate resource-based recreational opportunities, interpretation, and education that connects visitors to the real Florida.

What most people do not know, however, is just how much long-range planning and work is needed to achieve this goal. On a day to day basis, parks carry out repairs and make improvements to enhance the visitor experience and maintain the infrastructure. But it is the long-term planning that requires the most effort and often goes unnoticed by the millions of visitors to the parks. Florida Forever is one of the long-term land protection programs that conserves valuable environmental lands.

Earlier this month, Governor Rick Scott and the Florida Cabinet honored Scott Spaulding, manager of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings State Park, with the Jim Stevenson Resource Manager of the Year Award for his dedication to habitat restoration and stewardship of state lands.

The Florida State Parks Foundation with the more than 80 local friends groups (citizen support organizations) and the thousands of volunteers are working diligently to support both the day to day work and the long-term efforts that make Florida’s state parks the best in the country.

About the Author: Foundation Staff