Show Parks Some Love: Conversation with a Park Volunteer

A portrait of park volunteer Rita King

This February, show parks some love! Volunteering at Florida State Parks is fun and rewarding.

We talked to a volunteer about her experience at Weeki Wachee Springs State Park.

Rita King has a special love for Weeki Wachee. In the 1950s and ‘60s, she performed here as one of the world-famous Weeki Wachee mermaids. She’s returned to the park to give back to the community with her unique skills.

“I chose this park to volunteer at because all my life, I’ve lived down the road just a few miles,” King said. “It’s like coming home and being with your family, to volunteer here.”

King said her responsibilities as a volunteer are diverse. She takes advantage of the underwater skills she learned as a mermaid and continues to practice as a member of the Legendary Sirens.

“I volunteer about three or four days a week, and I clean and maintain the underwater equipment and also remove invasive plants,” King said. “I also represent the park by reaching out to the local community, social clubs and homeowners, and offer a selection of information to tell everyone how they can help save and preserve our freshwater springs."

King volunteers because it fosters a sense of belonging and the rewarding experience of giving back to her community.

“I volunteer for many reasons. I am part of an awesome team of people who are friendly, good people and very dedicated to maintaining Florida’s pristine and natural beauty so everyone can see it. I volunteer because it gives me the opportunity to give back to my community. It’s very rewarding for me because I’m outside interacting with nature, staying active, healthy and productive in retirement.”

King’s story shows how many different opportunities there are to volunteer at Florida State Parks, even for those of us who don’t have “mermaid” on our resume. Volunteers are an integral part of the state parks team – greeting visitors, leading tours, hosting special events, fixing up facilities and much more. Groups from schools, civic clubs and businesses are welcome too.

Make a difference at Florida State Parks  

This article was published in the Real Florida ℠ Connection, the Florida State Parks e-newsletter. Sign-up to get updates and stories from your state parks the first week of every month.