Florida State Parks 75th Anniversary Logo

The following are events leading to the establishment of the Division of Recreation and Parks as it exists today:


Florida Park Service Director Donald Forgione
Donald Forgione
Florida Park Service Director

Florida Park Service Directors

  • 1935 - 1937 C.H. Schaeffer
  • 1937 - 1940 H.J. Malsberger
  • 1940 - 1952 Lewis G. Scoggin
  • 1953 - 1960 Emmet L. Hill
  • 1960 - 1961 Walter A. Coldwell, Acting
  • 1961 - 1963 Walter A. Coldwell
  • 1963 - 1970 N.E. "Bill" Miller
  • 1970 - 1989 Ney C. Landrum
  • 1989 - 1989 Joseph F. Knoll, Acting
  • 1989 - 2001 Fran P. Mainella
  • 2001 - 2003 Wendy Spencer
  • 2003 - 2010 Mike Bullock
  • 2010 - Present Donald Forgione
Late 1800s - RETURN TO TOP
  • 1872 - Yellowstone designated (first National Park).
  • 1899 - Legislature created a Commission to erect a monument at Olustee Battlefield, the site of a significant Confederate victory in 1864.
Early 1900s - RETURN TO TOP
  • 1909 - Olustee Battlefield was acquired and designated as a memorial. This was the first established unit of what is now the Florida State Park system.
  • 1921 - State legislature appropriated funds for the preservation of the Dade Battlefield site as a memorial. It is also listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
1930s - RETURN TO TOP
  • 1933 - Creation of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). The CCC had its greatest impact on the development of the Florida State Parks system through the stimulus it provided for public land acquisition.
  • 1935 - Florida Park Service created by the Legislature under the Florida Board of Forestry. A budget of $25,000 per year was appropriated for state park purposes.
  • 1935 - The first four state parks were established - Myakka River State Park, Hillsborough River State Park, Torreya State Park and Gold Head Branch State Park.
1940s - RETURN TO TOP
  • 1941 - Legislature changed the name of the Florida Board of Forestry to the Florida Board of Forestry and Parks, but specified that the parks director would continue to work under the supervision of the state forester.
  • 1941 - Scenes from Tarzan’s Secret Treasure, starring Johnny Weismuller as Tarzan and Maureen O’Sullivan as Jane, were filmed at the future Wakulla Springs State Park.
  • 1945 - Legislature placed Florida Park Service directly under the Board of Forestry and Parks, on a level equal to the Florida Forest Service.
  • 1946 - Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings authored the Pulitzer prize winning book, The Yearling, in Cross Creek, south of Gainesville. The book was made into a movie of the same name starring Gregory Peck and Jane Wyman. Scenes of the story about a boy’s friendship with a deer were filmed at Rawlings’ homestead, now Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings Historic State Park. The Yearling was nominated for seven Oscars (won two, including Best Picture).
  • 1947 - Senator Leroy Collins, who later became governor, returned from military service in World War II. While stationed on the west coast, he visited state and national parks in California and Washington and, liking what he saw, sponsored a concurrent resolution "providing for the appointment of a joint senate-house committee to plan and prepare a program for the development and extension of state parks and monuments."
  • 1947 – An early edition of Florida Park Service News. The document, for park employees, outlines the mission, goals and short history of the park system through that time. Parks in the system at that time are also described, in addition to photos and stories.
  • 1949 - The resulting committee submitted a comprehensive State Park bill including an eloquent policy statement to the Legislature. The bill passed and remains virtually intact today. The Board of Parks and Historic Memorials was now a completely independent agency with a clearly defined direction.
1950s - RETURN TO TOP
  • 1953 - Visitation tops the one million mark.
  • 1954 - Creature from the Black Lagoon, a classic science fiction movie was filmed about a team of scientists traveling up the Amazon River who discover a prehistoric half-man, half-fish creature. Portions of the movie were filmed at the future Wakulla Springs State Park.
  • 1959 - John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park acquired (first underwater park in the U.S.).
1960s - RETURN TO TOP
  • 1963 - Land Acquisition Trust Fund created, which allowed for an accelerated acquisition program. By 1969, there were 84 units of the state park system.
  • 1969 - Governmental reorganization created the Division of Recreation and Parks by combining the old Board of Parks and Historic Memorials with the Florida Outdoor Recreation Development Council. The concepts of 'Recreation' and 'Parks' are combined into one agency for the first time. The Department of Natural Resources was created.
1970s - RETURN TO TOP
  • 1971 - The first official prescribed fire was conducted at Falling Waters State Park.
  • 1971 - ’The Forgotten Mermaids’ episode of the Underwater World of Jacques Cousteau was filmed at the future Blue Spring State Park. The documentary brought attention to the manatee and the importance of Blue Spring as a winter refuge, greatly influencing the state‘s decision to purchase the land.
  • 1972 - Visitation tops 10 million.
  • 1972 - Florida Park Service conducts first Ranger Academy to train all new park rangers.
  • 1972 - Department releases $240 million bond issue to purchase 'environmentally endangered' lands.
  • 1979 - Conservation and Recreation Lands (CARL) Trust Fund created.
1980s - RETURN TO TOP
  • 1983 - Henderson Beach State Park was the first acquisition under the Save Our Coast Program, a land conservation program initiated by Governor Bob Graham in 1981.
  • 1986 - Ybor City Museum becomes the first park to form a Citizen Support Organization (CSO).
  • 1989 - Matthew Broderick, Denzel Washington and Morgan Freeman starred in Glory, a movie portraying an all-black volunteer company in the Civil War. Scenes were filmed during a reenactment at Olustee Battlefield Historic State Park. The movie won many awards, including three Oscars and a Grammy.
1990s - RETURN TO TOP
  • 1990 - Florida Preservation 2000 Trust Fund created. $150 million per year to purchase lands under the CARL program and $8.7 million to purchase in-holdings and additions to state parks.
  • 1992 - Bahia Honda State Park is named America’s Best Beach, the first state park to earn the honor given every year just before Memorial Day Weekend by Dr. Stephen Leatherman, better known as Dr. Beach.
  • 1993 - Department of Natural Resources merges with the Department of Environmental Regulation to form the new Department of Environmental Protection.
  • 1993 - Friends of Florida State Parks, Inc. was created to support statewide needs.
  • 1994 - Fort Mose site listed on National Register of Historic Places.
  • 1994 - Dr. Beach names Grayton Beach State Park America’s Best Beach in his yearly ranking of the top ten beaches in the U.S.
  • 1995 - Florida Park Service features 143 state parks with 438,245 acres. There are 12 million visitors for the year.
  • 1995 - St. Andrews State Park becomes the third Florida State Park to earn the title America’s Best Beach, from Dr. Beach.
  • 1995 & 2003 - Scenes from Bad Boys and Bad Boys II, starring Martin Lawrence and Will Smith, two detectives protecting a murder witness, were filmed at Oleta River and Bill Baggs Cape Florida state parks in Miami. Both movies won BMI Film & TV awards.
  • 1997 - Demi Moore starred in G.I. Jane as a woman enrolled in Navy SEALS training. Scenes were shot in the Jacksonville area, including Big Talbot Island and Dunns Creek state parks.
  • 1999 - Florida Park Service is awarded the National Gold Medal by the National Recreation and Parks Association.
2000s - RETURN TO TOP
  • 2002 - Alfred B. Maclay Gardens State Park was listed on the National Register of Historic Places as Killearn Plantation Archeological and Historic District.
  • 2002 - Some scenes from Adaptation were filmed at Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park near Naples. Starring Nicolas Cage, Meryl Streep and Chris Cooper, this comedy/drama is about a screenwriter and his twin brother adapting a book, The Orchid Thief, into a motion picture screenplay. Adaptation was nominated for four Oscars and won Best Actor in a Supporting Role.
  • 2002 - St. Joseph Peninsula State Park earns the top spot on Dr. Beach’s list of the best beaches in the U.S. and is named America’s Best Beach.
  • 2003 - Olustee Battlefield State Park received the congressional Black Caucus Veteran’s Braintrust Award. The award, established by Colin Powell in 1990, recognizes outstanding national and community commitment to African American veterans.
  • 2004 - Cape Florida was designated as a National Underground Network to Freedom site.
  • 2004 - The Punisher, starring John Travolta as the villain, was filmed in the Tampa Bay area including Honeymoon Island State Park. After his wife and family are killed, Frank Castle (Thomas Jane) takes it upon himself to rid America of crime by acting as judge, jury and executioner. The movie was based on the Marvel Comics hero.
  • 2005 - Approximately 6,000 volunteers donate more than one million hours of service to Florida's state parks.
  • 2005 - The Florida Park Service is the first two-time winner of the National Gold Medal.
  • 2007 - The Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings house and farm yard were designated as a National Historic Landmark.
  • 2008 - The United States Postal Service released a commemorative stamp honoring Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings and the literary arts.
  • 2008 - Weeki Wachee Springs is welcomed as the 160th state park. The park originally opened in 1946 and is most well known for the underwater mermaid show.
  • 2008 - After many years in the top ten, Caladesi Island State Park, is named America’s Best Beach by Dr. Stephen Leatherman, aka Dr. Beach.
  • 2009 - First MP3 audio guided tour begins at Maclay Gardens State Park.
  • 2009 - Fort Mose Historic State Park became a member of the National Park Service’s National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom Program.
  • 2009 - Washington Oaks Gardens State Park is the 39th Florida state park to receive designation on the National Register of Historic Places.