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Florida State Parks Honors its Volunteers

 

   
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A Message From Eric Draper

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"Thank you for your continued support of our outstanding state parks!  Now that Spring is finally here, we could use your help reminding people it’s a great time to enjoy the outdoors.  Bring your family and friends to a park near you.  Explore a Florida State Park today!"

 

Wekiwa Springs Serenity Garden

A group helping to clear an area for the Serenity Garden

The construction of a Serenity Garden at Wekiwa Springs State Park in Orange County is taking an innovative and exciting approach to expanding access and enhancing the park experience for visitors with diverse abilities and special needs. Florida State Parks is partnering with the Wekiwa Wilderness Trust, a nonprofit, volunteer group, to build the garden utilizing the American Therapeutic Horticultural Association’s design principles for therapeutic and enabling spaces. “Nature heals the mind, body, and soul. While everyone deserves to be provided opportunities to be in nature, for many, physical obstacles in the environment preclude their access to nature,” said Dr. Amy Wagenfeld, occupational therapist, award-winning author and one of the project’s partners. “I see the Wekiwa Spring Serenity Garden as being the model project for all other state and national parks.”

                                   Learn More About the Serenity Garden

 
 

Florida Keys Overseas Heritage Trail Maintanance 

 A group picture of Florida State Park Staff after a work day

Staff at Lignumvitae, Bahia Honda and Long Key State Parks recently teamed up to maintain the incredible The Florida Keys Overseas Heritage Trail. Together the team helped mow, weed, clear trails, trim coconut palms and perform other important maintenance to keep the pristine multiuse trail in top shape. The Florida Keys Overseas Heritage Trail is an impressive trail, stretching more than 100 miles, from Key Largo to Key West. The trail boasts 90 linear miles of paved trail that is excellent for cycling, running, roller blading and even has plenty of points to launch a kayak or canoe. The dedication shown in the trail management is a firsthand example of how Florida State Park staff is committed to providing award winning natural recreation.

Learn More About Resource Management

 
 
 

 Haz-Mat Recycling Day Success

Hazardous Materials and Waste tires collected at Topsail Hill Preserve

The staff at Topsail Hill Preserve State Park in Walton County helped the county host a successful Solid Waste Recycling and Tire Amnesty Day. The park was one of two locations in the county for residents to drop off hazardous materials like pesticides, used oil, paint thinners and other chemicals that would be incredibly harmful in a landfill. Residents were also able to bring in old, unusable tires. More than 150 vehicles carrying about 200 people participated at the park’s collection, and county officials were able to take loads of environment harming chemicals to be properly recycled. Walton County is not the only partner Topsail Hill Preserve has team up with to help clean up the community. Volunteers, the Friends of Topsail Hill Preserve State Park, Florida Forest Service, and others consistently assist us to improve the health of Florida's ecosystems! 

See More Park Events 

 
 
 

Volunteer Appreciation Awards

A group photo of Eric Draper with Volunteer Award Recipients

Florida State Parks is honoring its incredibly vital volunteers this month with 5 district award ceremonies. Nearly 40 award recipients were selected across the state in various categories to honor individual achievements, group projects, Citizen Support Organizations and other outstanding volunteer performances. The award recipient’s accomplishments were widely ranged, and included giving exceptional service while leading tours; cleaning up post hurricane trash on a beach, just as sea turtles were about to lay their eggs; planning an exceptional cultural event that brought incredible numbers of visitors into the park; and multiple 20+ year service awards. Florida State Parks wants to give a huge thank you to the more than 14,400 volunteers and 83 Citizen Support Organizations that make Florida’s parks one of a kind!  For all the details, check out the Florida State Parks webpage.

   Read More About Our Volunteers!

 
   

Getting the Job Done at Jonathon Dickinson State Park

A prescribed fire burning at Jonathan Dickinson State Park

 

Park Staff at Jonathan Dickinson State Park in Martin County recently completed a 200 acre prescribed fire. To help gain some firsthand experience, a group from a week long Basic Wildland Firefighter Class was in attendance for the fire. The prescribed fire was considered “technical,” meaning there were structures, roads, and homes nearby. However, through meticulous planning, park staff were able to accommodate these factors and complete a successful prescribed fire. “Currently, we are in the middle of the dry season and some folks locally are getting anxious about the threat of wildfire,” Rob Rossmanith, the park’s Environmental Specialist said. He was among the 12 trained and skilled staff involved in the prescribed fire.  “Multiple years of planning, good line preparation, and skillful execution of this prescribed fire led to a successful burn.”  This is just another way Florida State Parks are using good fires to prevent bad ones.

Learn More About Prescribed Fire 

 
 
 

 

Find An Adventure at a Florida State Park!

 

Event Details First Friday Garden Walks

April 6

Come out to Washington Oaks Gardens State Park in Flagler County for a Ranger guided tour of our Historic District and Gardens. Learn about the history of Washington Oaks, while taking in the beauty of the Gardens.

 Get event details here! 

 

Event DetailsTarkiln's 20th Anniversary 

April 14

Join us at Tarkiln Bayou Preserve State Park in Escambia County and celebrate 20 years of protecting, preserving, and enjoying the park. There will be educational interpretive displays and ranger guided nature hikes at 10:00 a.m. and 12:00 p.m. 

Get event details here! 

Event DetailsClean-up Day

April 21

Join the Friends of Ichetucknee Springs State Park for a day of giving back in Columbia County. helping to clean up trash and debris around Dampier's Dock 

Get event details here! 

Be sure to check Facebook April 5th for a special deal on camping!

 

 

 
 

 

 

 #FLStateParks in the News! 

"Sarasota fifth-graders become wildlife biologists for a day“ 

"Vote for Caladesi Island State Park" 

"Dallas named Volunteer of the Month" 

 

 

 

 

  

 

Events See Huge Turn Outs

 

   
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 Civil War Heritage Event a Success

A group picture of Civil War reenacters

Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park in Key West hosted its annual Civil War Heritage Days Event in mid-February. The event drew capacity crowds of more than 6,000 total visitors throughout the weekend. Crowds watched as re-enactors from as far away as Arizona led demonstrations and hands-on activities. Among the crowd were nearly 1,000 middle school students. “We get middle school students who come for the day then end up volunteering for the event when they are in high school,” said Kevin Bowes, a Fort Zachary Taylor staff member. “We’ve even had high school volunteers return with their families years later to share the experience with their own kids.” A special thank you to the staff and volunteers who make this annual event possible.

Learn More About Park Events

 
 

Resource Management at Work: Protecting Torreya Trees 

 A picture of a ranger putting a wire cage around a torreya sapling

The staff at Torreya State Park in Liberty County are continuing efforts to protect one of the most endangered trees in North America. The torreya tree grows in ravines in Torreya State Park, and but a virus is putting those populations at further risk. The virus thrives by entering through a tree’s vascular system, the trunk. Adolescent deer aggravate the issue by rubbing their antlers against the trees, damaging areas of the trunk and giving the virus easier entrance. To combat this, park staff are installing wire cages around dozens of individual saplings. Thanks to a recent boost from the Atlanta Botanical Gardens and the Jacksonville Zoo, caging and monitoring efforts are well underway and they are one step closer to securing a healthy torreya tree population.

Learn More About Resource Management

 
 
 

 Volunteers Clean Up the Beaches

A group shot of Volunteers at Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park

Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park in Miami-Dade County had a successful monthly beach clean up event. Thanks to the help of nearly 150 volunteers, 330 pounds of trash was cleared off of the beach and picnic areas. The park was excited to welcome kids from the Irie Foundation, a South Florida foundation aimed at empowering at-risk youth. Florida State Parks is grateful to the dedicated volunteers that help protect the natural and cultural resources of our award-winning park system.

Learn More About Volunteering 

 
 
 

Mural Unveiled at Withlacoochee Trailhead

A photo of rangers in front of the new mural at Withlacoochee Trail

The Withlacoochee Trailhead in Inverness was just given a recent facelift. A colorful mural was unveiled to a crowd of volunteers and park staff members. Deputy Secretary of Land and Recreation David Clark, and Florida State Parks Assistant Director Parks Smalls both attended and spoke on the importance of the state park Citizen Support Organizations. The mural was funded, created, and installed by Rails to Trails of the Withlacoochee, specifically Linda and Dennis Reiland, Heather and Dave Nagy, and Candace and Jim McLean. The mural will offer a great photo opportunity for trail users, as well as create a lively focal point for the trail.

   Learn More About Florida State Parks Friends Groups

 
   

Teamwork at Big Talbot Island State Park

A picture of smoke and fire at a prescribed fire at Big Talbot Island State Park

 

Staff at Big Talbot Island State Park in Duval County teamed up with Florida Forest Service to complete a prescribed fire in tough conditions. The 320-acre area presented some challenges because it had not been managed with prescribed fire in almost 30 years and the initial plans included an aerial ignition for the burn. Although the helicopter pilot was forced to land due to heavy fog, the team jumped into action lighting designated areas by hand in order to complete the burn. Jeff DiMaggio, the Fire Management Officer for that district, oversaw the restorative fire. “This fire reminds me of why I love the park service: everyone’s willingness to be flexible and tackle a harder assignment without hesitation.”

Learn More About Prescribed Fire 

 
 
 

 

Find An Adventure at a Florida State Park!

 

Event Details 27th Annual Delicate Balance of Nature Lecture Series

March 7

Come out to Dagny Johnson Key Largo Hammock Botanical State Park in Monroe County for the conclusion of a two-month-long lecture series. Learn about the consequences, both good and bad, of humans interacting with nature!

 Get event details here! 

 

Event DetailsAnnual Commemoration of the Founding of Fort Mose

March 17

Join us at Fort Mose Historic State Park in St. Johns County for the fifth annual commemoration of the founding of Fort Mose. Come see re-enactors, historic weapons demonstrations, lectures and activies 

Get event details here! 

Event DetailsFlorida Tales Story Hour

March 28

Join volunteers for an hour of entertaining Florida stories at Myakka River State Park in Sarasota County. Some are real, some are just legend, but all are fun! Refreshments and snacks are provided! come learn about the Real Florida!  

Get event details here! 

 checkmark Pioneer Day Festival: A Living History Event

March 31

Take a trip back in time at Savannas Preserve State Park in St. Lucie County with the Pioneer Day Festival! Come enjoy living-history demonstrations, old-fashioned cooking and games, storytelling, and historic weapons demonstrations!

Get event details here! 

 

 

 
 

 

 #FLStateParks in the News! 

"Fabulous Florida: 10 spectacular ways to explore the Sunshine State“ 

"10 Great Small Towns for Big Vacations" 

"Topsail Hill Preserve State Park shows residents history of turpentine industry" 

 

 

 

  

 

Start your New Year at a Florida State Park

 

   
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 A Message from Director Eric Draper

Director Eric Draper giving a speech

As the new Director of Florida State Parks, I am very impressed by the passion and commitment I've witnessed while visiting parks throughout the state. Staff, volunteers and partner organizations are truly focused on our mission of protection, restoration, and interpretation of natural and cultural resources along with providing resource-based recreation. We all walk in the footsteps of others, and each day I remember I am just one of many custodians in a long-history of stewardship. In my role, I will follow the tradition of telling the story about how good stewardship of land, water and wildlife, and providing wonderful experiences, will lead to even greater recognition of and support for state and local parks. Our parks make Florida a great place to live and visit. Join me in telling the story of your favorite park and this wonderful system of special places.

 
 

Resource Management at Work: Reshaping Torreya State Park 

 Harvesting Wiregrass

Torreya State Park staff in Liberty County are restoring former logging land back to its original longleaf pine/wiregrass ecosystem. This habitat is one of the richest in North America with great species diversity. Imperiled plants and animals like the Torreya tree, Florida Yew and Fire-Back Crayfish can be found within the park. Restoring these lands to their original state will help safeguard these species survival for generations to come.

Park staff and partners from the Nature Conservancy have completed restoring 280 acres of wiregrass, and are planting longleaf pine seedlings on 300 more acres.

Learn More About Resource Management

 

 
 
 

 Students Assist in Prescribed Fire

Several Park Staff Members assist in a prescribed burn

A prescribed fire of more than 800 acres was completed at Mike Roess Gold Head Branch State Park in Clay County. Park staff teamed up with students from the University of Wisconsin - Stephens Point to complete the fire. Florida State Parks partners with organizations to maintain parks, share valuable knowledge on park management, and improve resource conservation. Stephens Point student's were led by Squad Leader Zach Richards. “This was our 6th year coming down here, it’s great, everyone gets some really valuable experiences out of it,” Richards said. “This was a lot of these students first burn, so it was awesome to see them out there.”

Learn More About Prescribed Fire 

 
 
 

Florida Conservation Corps: Making a Difference

Director Eric Draper handing documents to Heather Grames

AmeriCorps serves as an incubator for future Florida State Park leaders. This year, the Florida State Parks' AmeriCorps program, Florida Conservation Corps (FLCC) will start its 21st year. The grant agreement to partner in parks supports 65 FLCC AmeriCorps members serving in parks. Their time is focused on exotic plant management, trail accessibility, volunteer recruitment, outreach and interpretation. Last year AmeriCorps members served a collective 100,356 hours towards improving state parks.

   Learn More About Florida Conservation Corps

 
   

First Day Hikes a Success

Hikers at John D. MacArthur Beach State

 

January 1, 2018 marked the most First Day Hikes events in Florida State Parks history. Hikes were hosted at 100 different parks, with nearly 1,500 visitors participating. Department of Environmental Protection Secretary, Noah Valenstein and Florida State Parks Director, Eric Draper attended the event at Alfred B. Maclay Gardens State Park. Hikers showed up to start their year off on the right foot, in spite of record low temperatures and rain across parts of the state. Thank you to the organizers and participants who made First Day Hikes a success!

Find More Hikes Near You!

 Prescribed Fire Awareness Week: January 28 - February 3 

Fire Festival Graphic

Florida State Parks kicked off Prescribed Fire Awareness Week at the annual Red Hills Fire Festival in Tallahassee. Hosted by Tall Timbers Research Station, the festival brought together organizations to inform nearly 1000 members of the community about prescribed fires and how they help protect and restore our natural lands through demonstrations and activities. Florida State Parks' Fire Coordinator Sasha Ernst attended this year's event, saying “With over 300,000 acres of fire dependent communities managed by the Florida Park Service, prescribed fire is the most important and effective resource management tool that we have to restore and maintain healthy ecosystems throughout Florida."

 

 

 

 
 
 

 

Did you know?

 2016/2017

For Florida State Parks:

Graphic of Man

 

32.2 Million

Visitor Experiences

 

43,622 Jobs Created

 

 Animated Prescribed Fire

 99,604 Acres Actively Restored With:

Prescribed fire

Mechanical treatment

Removal of invasive exotic

 

Benefits include:

More opportunity for outdoor recreation

Reduced habitat loss

Protection of biodiversity 

  Our People Resources Include

graphic of park ranger

993 Full Time Employees

 

 83 Nonprofit Partner Groups

   

14,407 Volunteers

 

94 Concessions Partners    

 

 It's Florida Hiking Trails Month

Tram Tour and Swamp Walk - Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park - Learn More

Guided Nature Walk - John D. MacArthur Beach State Park - Learn More

Walk on Wild Side - Lovers Key State Park - Learn More

 

 
 

 

 #FLStateParks in the News! 

“Longtime Environmentalist Named State Parks Director” 

"Fabulous Florida: 10 spectacular ways to explore the Sunshine State" 

“Myakka River State Park offers up-close look at nature”