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The Real Florida℠ Connection - Endless Summer



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Use code EndlessSummerSpecial2018 to book two nights at select parks and get one night free. See bottom of page for details.

 Cypresses on the shore reflected in calm water.  A small deer stands in front of a tent.  Light sillhouettes the craggy entrance to the caverns.  Pine trees line a sandy trail.  Mountain biker riding on trail.

See bottom of the page for details.

A Message From Eric Draper

The Florida Park Service has a wonderful tradition of storytelling through music and cultural and historical interpretation, which is something I am proud to be a part of and have had the opportunity to experience firsthand.

Recently, while others waited for Tropical Storm Alberto’s drenching Memorial Day rains, I enjoyed great music at the Florida Folk Festival in White Springs. I’ve attended the festival before, but this time as state parks director I was part of recognizing some of the volunteers and sponsors who make the event such an amazing experience for guests and artists alike.

Now 66 years young, the Florida Folk Festival is thought to be the nation’s longest-running annual musical event. The festival’s setting is the Stephen Foster Folk Center State Park. It is one of many state parks that provide protection and enjoyment of nature as well as cultural experiences. The stories told at the festival have grown and become more diverse. I saw Dale Crider sing with such passion about places I love. It made me even more determined to do everything I can to preserve Florida’s natural and cultural resources.

One thing that I was especially excited to see at the Florida Folk Festival is similar to what can be witnessed daily in our state parks — a genuine sense of community and joy from sharing places and experiences. People make our parks and create community within our parks.

By coming together to engage, learn and teach others about our shared culture and history, people transform parks into something more than the land itself. Music is a great tool for exploring and interpreting our relationship with the environment and our past.

Year-round music programs connect visitors with our natural and cultural heritage. Florida’s stories are told through lyrics and melodies at events like the Gamble Jams at Gamble Rodgers Memorial State Recreation Area at Flagler Beach; the drum circles celebrating the yearly solstices and equinoxes at Savannas Preserve State Park; and the Caribbean summer concert series at Anastasia State Park.

Florida State Parks are more than landscapes and natural environments. They are home to Florida’s heritage and history and the art, crafts, music and food that grew out of it. Storytelling reminds us of people and experiences that connect us together and to Florida.

This is the Real Florida℠ — and you can find it in Florida State Parks.

                    -Eric Draper


Learn more about Florida State Parks



Cooperating to Clean up the Coast

Group of Norwegian Cruise Line employees and park ranger stand behind bags of trash collected during event. (Norwegian Cruise Line volunteers stand with bags of trash collected during their regular cleanup)

Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park is cleaner thanks to the efforts of volunteers, park rangers and staff.

With support from 4Ocean, Expedition South Kayaks, Winn-Dixie and Norwegian Cruise Line, staff and volunteers recently removed hundreds of pounds of litter and debris from the beaches, trails, natural preserves and other park areas.

Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park, located on Key Biscayne near Miami, sees close to 1 million visitors a year. Unfortunately, some visitors leave litter in park. The coastal park also has debris deposited on its shores by currents, tides and winds. Some of the debris collected recently was from last year’s Hurricane Irma.

On June 30, 110 volunteers suited up to clear out debris throughout the park, from the trails and beaches to the thickets and wetlands. The cleanup event sponsored by 4Ocean a company dedicated to getting plastic out of the world’s seas removed over 500 pounds of trash from the park. Expedition South Kayaks and Winn-Dixie also supported the cleanup event.

“It is important to properly dispose of trash to prevent it from reaching our waterways and being spread further out to sea. It becomes a hazard to wildlife and people,” Assistant Park Manager Lu Dodson said.

The park and the park’s community support organization Friends of Cape Coral work hard to promote park cleanup events. In early July, a group from Norwegian Cruise Line collected 167 pounds of trash from the park as part of their commitment to have regular cleanup events at the park. On July 14, individual volunteers and groups from Aetna, Bullet Line and Florida International University collected 228 pounds of trash. Volunteer Coordinator Jorge Brito makes special efforts to involve local businesses and volunteer groups in park cleanups.

“Together we can keep our beaches and parks free of trash. That is a good thing for everyone who lives here and visits Florida,” Dodson said.

The park has a regular cleanup day on the second Saturday of every month. Visitors and volunteers are encouraged to participate.

                                                  Get involved at a Florida State Park


Turtle Tech

Standing on a beach, GIS technician shows park staff how to use mobile app to survey sea turtle nests.

(Florida Park Service technician Adam Neuse shows park staff how to use a mobile app to survey sea turtle nests)

There is an app for everything, even tracking sea turtle nests thanks to the Florida Park Service.

Every day at sunset, John D. MacArthur Beach State Park Ranger Valerie Caruso scours the length of the beach looking for sea turtle nests. She notes each nest depression and turtle track to report to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and Palm Beach County. For years, this task took hours of painstaking data entry. Now, thanks to a new app, transmitting the day’s survey takes only minutes.

Florida Park Service (FPS) geographic information system technicians Andrew Williams and Adam Neuse worked with park rangers and biologists to develop an app that streamlines the monitoring and protection of sea turtle nesting sites on both the Gulf and Atlantic coasts. The mobile app allows nest surveyors to mark the precise location, species and status of each nest and easily upload each entry into a database.

“It takes one minute where it used to take one hour,” said Neuse, who estimated data entry use to take MacArthur Beach staff about 200 hours per season.

The app doesn’t just make the survey process more convenient. It allows park staff and resource managers to visualize the patterns and concentrations of nests and to chart changes or threats to nesting sea turtles over time.

At MacArthur Beach, nesting sites are analyzed in different sectors. If a sector near a condominium begins to show a decline in successful nesting, it could indicate that street lights are disorienting sea turtles at night or that a predator is in the area. With the data, park staff can better protect the nests and sea turtles.

Staff and volunteers at MacArthur Beach have thoroughly integrated the turtle survey app into their overall conservation plan, and 17 other parks are in varying stages of implementation. Ultimately, FPS wants to utilize this tool throughout the parks and in collaboration with other state environmental agencies. The Fish and Wildlife Commission has started to use the app as well.

“This is very much a collaborative enterprise,” Neuse said.

Neuse says his team will continue to find solutions to resource management problems, whether that be collecting data on the locations of endangered Torreya trees to information about the depth of canals in Key Largo’s coastal wetlands.

Technological advances along with the dedication and hard work of staff, volunteers and community supporters allow FPS to accomplish its mission to protect, interpret and preserve Florida’s unique environmental heritage.


                                     Learn more about John D. MacArthur Beach State Park






Bringing Birch Back

The interior of Park and Ocean, the restaurant at Hugh Taylor Birch State Park, and another photo of canoers paddling down the park's moat.

Tucked away in Fort Lauderdale, Hugh Taylor Birch State Park is an oasis for residents and visitors.

“We are so surrounded by development, but when you come into the park it doesn’t feel like you’re in the city anymore. You feel like you’re far away, even if you’re not,” said Park Manager Jennifer Roberts.

Through the efforts of the Department of Environmental Protection and the Friends of Birch State Park’s “Bring Birch Back!” campaign, the park is experiencing a renaissance. Over the last five years, the park has been transformed.

The Friends of Birch State Park — led by President Jim Ellis, Executive Director Gale Butler, and Director of Development Trudy Reilly — worked with community partners, volunteers and the Florida Park Service (FPS) to make repairs and provide attractive new amenities.

“Many residents refer to this park as Fort Lauderdale’s ‘Central Park.’ The recent improvements allow the park to serve as that,” Roberts said.

Restoration projects in the park’s dune lake system and in its 800-foot-long moat system allow kayakers, canoers and paddleboarders easy access to shaded paddling trails weaving through beautiful subtropical flora. Pedestrians, in-line skaters and bicyclists can explore the park on a widened two-mile loop road.

Visitors enjoy a revamped concession area and the park’s restaurant, Park & Ocean, which offers live music, craft beer and Friday night hog roasts.

The newest addition to the park is a floating dock and adjoining welcome pavilion. The dock, which officially opened in June, enables unprecedented access to the park from the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway. The new dock is an open invitation for boaters to stop by and experience all the park has to offer, from freshwater dune lakes to beaches, and the historic estate of the late Chicago attorney Hugh Taylor Birch.

“We are excited. We’ve never had boat access before. It’s historic,” Roberts said.

More improvements are in store for the park. A new seawall to replace the park’s century-old structure has entered its second phase. Visitors soon will be able to relax in a meditation garden being built in a quiet corner of the park.

Thanks to the Friends of Birch State Park, FPS, and community supporters, Hugh Taylor Birch State Park will continue to flourish and be a retreat for all.

Learn more about Hugh Taylor Birch State Park



Prescribed Fire Protects Habitats

Prescribed fire is a safe way to ensure ecosystem health and reduce wildfire risk. From July 2017 to June 2018 FPS burned a record 85,769 acres.

Prescribed burns are vital for the health and integrity of Florida’s ecosystems, including many that are protected by Florida’s 175 state parks and trails.

In spite of hurricanes, tropical storms and drought, the Florida Park Service has turned this past fiscal year into the most successful ever for the prescribed burn program, with a record-breaking 85,795 acres burned.

“Through the tremendous efforts of Florida Park Service staff, we have achieved a record-setting year of successfully applying prescribed fire to Florida's fire-dependent ecosystems,” Parks Fire Management Program Coordinator Sasha Ernst said. “Prescribed fire is an essential management tool that applies a natural process to maintain the health of Florida State Parks ecosystems and aids the prevention of catastrophic wildfires.’’

Six of every 10 acres in Florida are home to a fire-dependent ecosystem. If grasslands and wetlands are not burned regularly, imperiled species like sandhill cranes, gopher tortoises and grasshopper sparrows are pushed out of those areas, along with other species like the bobwhite quail.

“Certain species of plants flower and produce fruit only after a spring lightning season fire, and so their survival and the survival of wildlife which benefit are dependent on this process,” Florida State Parks Assistant Director Parks Small said.

Prescribed burning fulfills the state park mission to promote, preserve and maintain Florida’s natural landscape. It also plays an important role in protecting homes and landowners. Prescribed fires conducted for ecological purposes remove unwanted vegetation that could fuel a wildfire.

We want to thank our staff, partner organizations, volunteers and the legislators who continue to recognize the importance of prescribed burns and their vital role in the protection of Florida’s natural resources.

   Read more about prescribed burns



 Share your story in the Florida State Parks summer photo contest! Choose your photo category and enter to win.





Find An Adventure at a Florida State Park! 



Event DetailsFirst Friday Garden Walks 

August 3

Join us for a Ranger guided tour of our Historic District and Gardens the first Friday of each month. Learn about the history of Washington Oaks Gardens State Park, while taking in the beauty of the Gardens.

  Get event details here


Event DetailsGamble Jam

August 11

Musicians gather to play in remembrance of James Gamble Rogers IV, a renowned Florida folk singer, entertainer and storyteller whom our park is named after. Musicians of all levels are encouraged to bring instruments and a chair and participate in a casual acoustic jam session.

  Get event details here



Event DetailsNative American History of the Florida Panhandle

August 17

Educators from Topsail Hill Preserve State Park and the Indian Temple Mound Museum will teach visitors about the Native Americans that have called the Florida Panhandle home. 

Get event details here



Event DetailsMusic in the Park: Summer Concert Series with King Eddie and Pili Pili

August 19

As one of North Florida’s favorite beach culture pastimes for over 30 years, King Eddie and Pili Pili's brand of Caribbean beats and calypso rhythms are sure to rock Anastasia State Park. 

Get event details here


Event Details Moonrise at the Beach

August 26

Join staff and volunteers at Gamble Rogers Memorial State Recreation Area at Flagler Beach and learn fun and interesting facts about the moon and our coastal ecosystem! Don't forget your binoculars and camera!

Get event details here








 #FLStateParks in the News! 


"Florida state parks gets a record 85,795 acres of prescribed fire"

"Florida bucket list: 20 things you have to do in the Sunshine State"

"Florida State Parks proud to showcase hidden gems"



Endless Summer Special Camping Details and Conditions

Book 2 nights, get 1 night free at Big Lagoon State Park, Florida Caverns State Park, Manatee Springs State Park, Lake Kissimmee State Park, or Alafia River State Park. Book 2 consecutive nights for stays between August 1, 2018-September 30, 2018 at any of the included parks. (Family camping only – not applicable to cabins, primitive sites, primitive group camps or developed group camps) and get a third consecutive night free. Promotion available for reservations made online or by phone, between August 1, 2018-September 30, 2018 at 11:59 Eastern Time (ET). All reservation policies and fee apply. Offer not valid Labor Day Weekend (August 31, 2018-September 3, 2018). Only one discount per customer. Offer cannot be combined with any other promotion or discount. Offer not applicable for current bookings.







Florida State Parks Celebrates National Recreation and Parks Month



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A Message From Eric Draper

The tip of a kayak going through crystal clear springs

My son loves camping at Torreya State Park. I like to think his passion stems from our family vacations when he was growing up. We'd load up our equipment into the car and head to the woods. Swimming, boating and exploring by day and campfire food at night made for a perfect day as the family crowded together in our tent. It is so rewarding now to hear about my son and his sisters’ favorite park experiences.  When we have free afternoons and everyone’s sitting around the house, I’ll say “Let’s have a picnic at a park.”  Something about eating outdoors on a wooden table makes watermelon and PB&J taste even better, and fortunately, Florida State Parks have plenty of picnic tables to spare! July is National Recreation and Parks Month. There is no better way to spend the month than to head to a state or local park for camping or a day trip. It is the perfect place to unwind and immerse yourself in the natural beauty of Florida. You can wake up to waves crashing on the shore of a beach, fall asleep under a sky full of stars and spend your days hiking or fishing. But what really makes our parks special? They are a place to reconnect with friends and family, and with nature and ourselves. Florida State Parks is proud to offer quality camping experiences across the state, including our two newest campgrounds at Colt Creek and Gilchrist Blue state parks. Colt Creek State Park recently opened its 23-site campground with 15 miles of trails, freshwater fishing and proximity to other incredible state parks and trails. You can also spend the night at our newest addition, Gilchrist Blue Springs State Park. In the morning you can indulge in my favorite substitute for a cup of coffee: a dip in the cool spring waters, then a paddling excursion down the spring run. Next month I’ll be taking time to reflect on the valuable memories I’ve made with my family, and how many of the best were made in the outdoors. July is a month to think about how parks make these memories possible. -Eric Draper

Learn more About Florida State Parks


           A Pennekamp Family Celebration 

          The Pennekamp Family Gathered for a Family group photo

                                                                      (Members of the Pennekamp Family gather at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park)

In 1951, John Pennekamp, a longtime conservationist and member of the newly created Board of State Parks and Historic Memorials, addressed the Florida Legislature. The title and main topic of that speech was “playgrounds for all the people.” His dedication and service to the state park system led Florida Governor Leroy Collins to name John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park in Key Largo in his honor.

Since Pennekamp gave this speech over 60 years ago, families have flocked to the parks to enjoy the incredible outdoor recreation options and the opportunity to experience amazing history and culture. Among those families is one that has a more personal connection to John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park.

Earlier this month, 34 members of the Pennekamp family gathered at the state park to celebrate the life of John D. Pennekamp Jr., son of the park’s namesake, who passed recently at age 91. Like many families, often separated by distance or schedules, they found time to come together and celebrate the life of an extraordinary person.

“Twenty-one years ago, we all gathered together at the park to celebrate the life of our mom, Dee Pennekamp,” Tom Pennekamp, son of John Pennekamp Jr., said. “By going to the park, it allowed us the opportunity to reflect not only on the wonderful life of our dad and mom, but also the amazing accomplishments of our grandfather, John D. Pennekamp.” 

Tom spent a lot of time in Florida State Parks growing up. “As a child, my grandfather would take us down there to show off the park that he helped establish and teach us the beauty and value of our natural resources.  He instilled in us a sense of responsibility to be good stewards for our environment.”

Tom is determined to pass down the same values to his own children. “We enjoy all of the water activities available: scuba, snorkeling, canoeing, swimming,” Tom said. He also makes sure they all learn about their family connection to the park. “We visit the nature trail where we have placed a bench in memory of our mom. Soon we’ll replace the existing plaque on the bench with both of our parents' names on it.”

Share your park memories and stories with us on social media by using #EveryStampisAStory   

                                                 Have a Family Reunion at a Park


 Gulf Specimen Marine Lab Releases Kemp's Ridley Sea Turtles

A sea turtle being carried to the ocean to be released

Earlier this month, Gulf Specimen Marine Lab released four juvenile Kemp’s ridley sea turtles back into the Gulf of Mexico from Bald Point State Park in Panacea. Kemp’s ridley sea turtles are among the most endangered species of sea turtle in the world.

All four sea turtles were injured when trying to take bait off fishing hooks, but were quickly picked up and taken to the Gulf Specimen Marine Lab to heal.

Opal the sea turtle was found by the marine lab at Mashes Sands Pier by a local fisherman. She has scratches on her shell that biologists determined were caused during a shark attack! However, their shell allows them the ability to turn sharply and she was able to escape.

Newbie was found across the bay from the lab at Dickerson Bay, while Spicy the sea turtle was found at Mashes Sands Pier and was named for his fiery attitude! The final sea turtle is named Scooby, and was found at Alligator Point. Scooby was under the care of Dr. Griggs at Shepard Springs Animal Shelter until being given to the lab to be released.

This isn't the first time Gulf Specimen Marine Lab has partnered with Florida State Parks for a sea turtle release. In January, a crowd showed up at Dr. Julian G. Bruce St. George Island State Park to watch 40 sea turtles swim off into the Gulf of Mexico. Those turtles had been rescued by the Marine Lab after a period of extreme cold left many sea turtles "cold stunned," in which their cold blooded body temperature lowers too much and puts the turtles into a comatose state.

More than 500 people came to the release to wish our marine friends the best of luck in their journey back into the ocean. Remember this sea turtle nesting season to turn off artificial lights near the beach at night, clean up any litter you see along the beach and #SkiptheStraw to help our sea turtle populations!

                                     Learn More About Gulf Specimen Marine Lab






Endangered Snail Kite Nest Discovered

A male adult snail kite flying near researchers

After recent sightings of the endangered snail kite in Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park in Alachua County, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection assisted in conducting a survey that has led to the discovery of a nest containing three chicks.

Snail kites typically nest in more southern areas of Florida. With many nests lost in Hurricane Irma, researchers were concerned about the population of the species. However, recent sightings by Alachua County residents sparked the interest of Florida Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit at the University of Florida. Wildlife biologist Brian Jeffery led the survey expedition alongside Florida State Park environmental specialist Keith Morin.

“The habitat has improved a lot with our recent efforts to reduce wetland trees, which crowd the areas these birds hunt in,” Morin said. “Water quality has also improved over the last decade as the park has improved treatment marshes. All of those factors, coupled with weather conditions that have helped drive up the apple snail population, the bird’s primary food source, have benefited the bird greatly.”

DEP also partners with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the Fletcher Lab at the UF Wildlife Ecology and Conservation school to help manage research of water levels and ecological conditions in the Paynes Prairie basin.

Learn More About This 



Progressive Insurance Volunteer Day

Progressive Insurance volunteers working at Hillsborough River State Park

Hillsborough River State Park turned 80 years old this month, and for its birthday it got a special treat. Nearly 70 volunteers for Progressive Insurance visited the park for a work day and donated more than 150 volunteer hours!

The volunteers gathered over 25 bags of non-native weeds that had been growing around the 112 sites within the park’s campground. Volunteers then transplanted 60 pine trees to help restore the sensitive pine flatwoods ecosystem. However, they didn’t stop with resource management projects. The volunteers also helped assemble, replace and repair nearly a dozen picnic tables.

Progressive Insurance isn’t the only company volunteering at a Florida State Park. In April, Norwegian Cruise Lines committed  to a bimonthly cleanup at Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park in Miami-Dade County. At their first cleanup, the volunteers bagged 147 pounds of trash from the beach and picnic areas.

We thank all of our business partners, volunteers and CSO that dedicate their time to helping Florida State Parks!

   Read More About How You Can Volunteer



 Prescribed Fire - Successful Year in Review

A Florida State Parks Fire Crew monitoring a Prescribed Fire at Jonathan Dickinson State Park 

Florida State Parks has put an emphasis the past few years on promoting the best possible prescribed fire practices. This past fiscal year has been the best burn acreage year in Florida State Parks history, surpassing 80,837 acres within state parks!

"We are proud of Florida State Parks staff for setting a new record for protecting park habitat with prescribed fire," said Florida State Park Director Eric Draper. "Florida is fortunate to have such dedicated people working in state parks reducing risks of wildlife and restoring natural systems."

“This is a tremendous accomplishment,” Florida State Parks Fire Management Program Coordinator Sasha Ernst said. This year hasn’t been easy when it comes to prescribed fires; many difficulties stood in the way. “Hurricane Irma, rains and droughts have limited our windows to burn.” Despite these many challenges, crews around the state were able to focus on implementation of the best prescribed fire practices for an amazing year.

“Much of this year’s accomplishments are due to the previous years’ efforts,” Parks Small, Florida State Park Assistant Director, said. “Mechanical fuel treatment, construction of new firebreaks, new equipment and consistent training” all helped lay the groundwork for this year’s success.

Additionally, getting the majority of the parks acreage on a three-year burn rotation has been another major accomplishment by the Florida State Park fire crews. “Staff are burning more acres that were recently burned, so they have less fuel loads this time,” Small said. “This achievement alone makes burning safer and removes much of the ecological risks compared to heavier fuel loads.”

Learn More About Prescribed Fire 





Find An Adventure at a Florida State Park! 



Event DetailsTrapper Nelson Interpretive Tour  

July 5

Come to Jonathan Dickinson State Park to ride on the 60 passenger Loxahatchee Queen III. It takes visitors on a one-and-a-half-hour tour of the river, with a stop at the restored 1930s camp of Trapper Nelson, the "Wildman of the Loxahatchee." 

  Get event details here


Event DetailsBeach Cleanup Marathon Day 

July 9

Join Henderson Beach, Grayton Beach, and St. Andrews state park staff as we clean up our beautiful beaches after the holiday weekend. Come out and clean one park, two parks, or all three to receive a special reward!

  Get event details here


Event DetailsPickin' in the Park 

July 15

Enjoy local and visiting musicians at Silver Springs State Park, as they perform acoustic music in a scenic area near the springs. Feel free to bring your own instrument and join in or just listen and enjoy.

Get event details here



Event DetailsKid's Corner - Environmental Activities

July 20

Join us at Gilchrist Blue Springs State Park for interactive kids activities! From 10 a.m. - 2 p.m. children can complete the Junior Ranger CORE activities, collect passport stamps and earn an official Junior Ranger badge, patch or pin! 

Get event details here

Event Details Moonrise at the Beach

July 27

Join staff and volunteers at Gamble Rogers Memorial State Recreation Area at Flagler Beach and learn fun and interesting facts about the moon and our coastal ecosystem! Don't forget your binoculars and camera!

Get event details here








 #FLStateParks in the News! 

"Wesley Meyers Shares Why Camp Helen State Park is Special" 

"State park developing Salt Works Alive interactive displays" 

"Best of Miami - Best Campground - Oleta River State Park" 







Florida State Parks Celebrates Clean Air Month



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A Message From Eric Draper

A woman taking a deep breath in front of the text

When walking with people in state parks, I like to point out how clean the air is. Then I tell them that the air is clean because Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection works hard to control and reduce air pollution.

Florida’s air quality was not always as clean as it is today. In fact, my desire to protect our air resources was part of my decision to be a conservation advocate. Just a decade after college, I was honored to participate in a meeting at the White House with President George Bush to discuss the federal Clean Air Act. The Clean Air Act was established to protect public health by regulating hazardous air pollutants.

In Florida, DEP administers the Clean Air Act and works to protect and improve Florida air quality, helping ensure Florida’s air is among the cleanest in the nation. Thanks to DEP’s efforts statewide, emissions in Florida continue to improve and are now the lowest they have been on record. These reductions in air pollution has given us more vivid and stunning views of the night sky, leading to two of our state parks receiving certification from the International Dark Sky Association.

May is both Clean Air Month and National Bicycling Month. With that in mind, I hope we can all help conserve energy and reduce air pollution by replacing some car trips with walking or cycling.

DEP, along with the Florida Department of Transportation, is making it easier to use a bike to get around and get exercise. We are working together to expand access to state and local bike trails and encouraging bicycle and pedestrian friendly transportation routes. With trails such as the Cross Florida Greenway, the Florida Keys Overseas Heritage Trail and the soon to be built Honeymoon Island spur, there are great places and ways to traverse Florida.

So if you see me out there on the road taking my bike to work, understand that I’m doing my part to help keep our air clean. Please keep a safe distance of three feet and give a friendly smile and wave as you pass by. Please be sure to check out Florida’s bicycle friendly parks at

-Eric Draper

Learn More About Clean Air Month


  Springs Restoration at Lafayette Blue 

A picture of Lafayette Blue Springs State Park with clear water

Florida’s springs are a one of a kind resource. With more than 1,000 springs in the state, they provide a home to plant and animal life, a source of freshwater for rivers and streams and the perfect backdrop for memorable experiences. However, some springs around the state are in need of help. Florida State Parks, along with other Florida Department of Environmental Protection staff, are working collaboratively to improve protection and the health of the state’s springs.

Lafayette Blue Springs State Park in Lafayette County is home to an ongoing restoration project. Florida State Parks District Biologist Anne Barkdoll often monitors Lafayette Blue Springs for algae levels and water clarity. She also looks for ways to improve park management and maintenance processes, as well as redesign structures to minimize impacts to the spring. “We’ve redesigned the parking lot to reduce runoff, altered our mowing practices and planted native vegetation to minimize erosion,” Barkdoll said, “we’re taking steps to improve what we can within the park.”

Florida Department of Environmental Protection is also trying to take proactive steps in Lafayette Blue Springs. The Suwannee River Water Management District has drawn up detailed action plans aimed at establishing healthy water flow and levels. They have worked with local communities to help instill the best groundwater pumping and fertilizer use practices. Most importantly all of Florida DEP is working to shift the focus from short-term fixes to long-term, holistic approaches to ensure the protection of clean and abundant groundwater for the future.

Learn More About Florida's Springs


 Audubon Shorebird Protection

A group of Plover's on Ft. Clinch State Park's Beach

Summer in the state of Florida means shorebird nesting season is well underway. Although this time of year brings incredible species of birds, like the American oystercatcher, black skimmer and Wilson’s plover, these species face conservation challenges. Florida’s beaches also experience a lot of recreational use, especially during the summer. Shorebird nests are often built in the shallow sand and can be difficult to see, due to camouflaging. Florida State Parks partners with Audubon Florida to help protect shorebirds. Volunteers monitor shorebird nests, rope off areas to encourage shorebird nesting and rope off nests. Audubon volunteers also serve as ambassadors, educating the community on the importance of shorebirds and how everyone can help protect and conserve the environment.

Sean Cooley of Audubon Florida explained how the group assists Florida State Parks and staff. “Most of our work falls into either conservation or education. A lot of people don’t really understand how sensitive these birds are,” Cooley said. When most people see birds sitting on their eggs, they assume it’s to keep them warm and incubated. On the smoldering Florida coast, it’s the opposite. “People will get too close to nests and the bird will run away out of fear. With those eggs left unattended for just a few minutes, they can get too hot and there won’t be a hatchling.”

While state parks staff continue to protect wildlife and the environment, there are ways that everyone can help while enjoying Florida State Parks. Picking up all your trash on the beach, especially properly disposing of monofilament fishing line, is one way visitors can help reduce their impact. Additionally, they can attend a beach cleanup event in a state park or one of the Audubon’s numerous Bird Counts. The partnership between Audubon and Florida State Parks is one that benefits everyone, and thanks to their dedication, Florida residents and visitors can look forward to seeing incredible species of birds for generations to come.

Learn More About Audubon






Dark Skies Around the State

A view of the Milky Way over one of St. George Island's pavilions

Stargazing at Dr. Julian G. Bruce St. George Island State Park in Franklin County has always been outstanding. Located roughly an hour east of Panama City Beach, the barrier island is tucked away on its own isolated oasis. Because it is so far from a major city and has such little light pollution, it has its sights set on earning the Gold Tier Dark Sky Certification, the highest level awarded by the International Dark Sky Association. Getting this designation would list the park among other famous dark sky areas in the association’s database, making it an incredibly desirable camping and stargazing location.

Park Ranger Skip Schipper has spent the past year gathering dozens of light readings with a Sky Quality meter throughout the park and at different times throughout a month. His findings are comparable to already Dark Sky Association certified areas in Arizona. The dark sky is also a reason the island has such a high number of nesting sea turtles. “The night sky is beautiful, but it’s also how newborn sea turtles find their way to the water,” Schipper said.

St. George Island isn’t the only Florida State Park with an amazing night sky. Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park in Okeechobee County also has a Dark Sky certification and has dazzled stargazers and campers with its views of the Milky Way above the prairie. Stargazing is also a popular activity at T.H. Stone Memorial St. Joseph Peninsula State Park in Gulf County and Mike Roess Gold Head Branch State Park in Clay County, as well as other parks throughout the state.

Stargaze at a Florida State Park 



A Focus on our Staff 

Ed Perry taking a photo on Sebastian Inlet Beach

“A few weeks ago me and a couple other rangers noticed a sea turtle crawling up the beach.” Ed Perry excitedly told his story, “It was a Kemp’s ridley sea turtle, one of the most endangered species of sea turtles in the world.” A moment like this would be incredible for a park visitor, but many people would think that after 29 years of working at Sebastian Inlet State park, Ed would have seen it all by now. But even after all this time, in his own words, “those moments are what make this job exciting to come to every day.”

Ed Perry’s journey as a park services specialist has been one full of adventures, surprises and new experiences. “I always loved Sebastian Inlet. Right when I graduated college, I knew that’s where I wanted to be.” Ed spends a lot of time around the Inlet. Even when he’s not working he enjoys fishing and taking incredible wildlife photos. “The inlet just has so much beauty, there’s nothing like the coast. There's no way to describe it, you just have to be there.”

Around the state, hardworking park rangers, managers, biologists and administrators help offer award-winning outdoor recreational entertainment and access to natural and cultural resources. Thank you to all Florida State Park staff.

   Read More About How You Can Volunteer



 Prescribed Fire Restoration

A Prescribed Fire at Torreya State Park 

In 2011, the state of Florida acquired roughly 7,000 acres of property from the St. Joe Company. The acquisition expanded the borders of Torreya State Park and the park’s immensely critical role in restoring one of the most species-rich habitats in North America. The property is made up of rolling hills with deep ravines, creating microhabitats that provide sanctuary for rare species like the Torreya tree, Florida yew, fire-back crayfish and Apalachicola dusky salamander. Over time, the land had been converted to industrial timberland, so park staff has been hard at work returning it to an ecologically functional longleaf pine/wiregrass system.

Recently, park staff conducted a prescribed fire of 350 acres on the property to promote wiregrass flowering. Following the prescribed burn, which will clear out longleaf pine trees that were used for industrial timber, park staff and partners from The Nature Conservancy will begin harvesting seeds from other areas that have already been restored. Park Biologist Mark Ludlow was at the prescribed burn and has been heavily involved in the Torreya restoration projects.  “This is the largest sandhill restoration project in Florida State Park history, and one of the largest upland habitat restoration projects in the U.S.,” Ludlow explained. “We started with over 5,000 acres of timberland and are now officially over 50 percent completed with the restoration.”

Learn More About Prescribed Fire 





Find An Adventure at a Florida State Park! 



Event DetailsWorld Oceans Day Beach Cleanup  

June 8

Bring the family out to Perdido Key State Park to help the Friends of Pensacola State Parks, Inc. and the Perdido Key Association celebrate World Oceans Day by cleaning up the beach.

  Get event details here


Event DetailsSecond Saturday Paddle 

June 9

Take a 90 minute paddle at Hillsborough River State Park and learn about the natural history and communities that make the Hillsborough River unique and important.

  Get event details here


Event DetailsTopsail Talks - Living Bear-Wise 

June 15

Join Topsail Hill Preserve State Park staff and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to  learn about the Florida Black Bear and how to "Live Bear-Wise."  

Get event details here



Event DetailsShelter Dog Pack Walk

June 24

Join Silver Springs State Park Staff in Marion County for a walk with a few well-behaved shelter dogs from Marion County Animal Services. All dogs are available for adoption! 

Get event details here

Event Details Movies and More 2018

June 27

The Friends of Camp Helen State Park and Camp Helen Park staff invite the family to the fifth annual Movies & More series. Come watch “A Bug’s Life” and participate in insect related activities!

Get event details here


The Outsiders Club Season 3 debuts this June, check out the TV schedule here 





 #FLStateParks in the News! 

"Topsail Hill Beach gets a Cleanup" 

"Evening by the Sea boosts Birch State Park" 

"National Bike Month: How to celebrate this May" 







Florida State Parks Celebrates Its First Trail Town



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A Message From Eric Draper

A Child splashing in a Spring

The month of April was Springs Protection Awareness Month. Florida’s springs are among the state’s most vital resources. Not only are they home to abundant plant and animal life, a source of fresh water for rivers and streams and an attraction for local economies and state tourism, but they are the backdrop for countless memories. With more than 1,000 springs in the state, and among the largest concentration of freshwater springs on Earth, springs are forever woven into the past, present and future of Florida. Florida State Parks is dedicated to the protection of Florida’s springs through meticulous planning and strong community partnerships. With $50 million approved in funding for springs in the upcoming year, we will continue the state’s record investments.

-Eric Draper

Learn More About Florida's Springs



  Dunedin Becomes Florida's First Trail Town 

Director Eric Draper Speaking in front of a crowd

Downtown Dunedin was nothing spectacular when I used to visit in the 1970s. It looked like virtually every other town that had paved over most of its green space and was unfriendly to bicyclists and pedestrians. Today, driving, walking or bicycling through Dunedin is a pleasure. Streets are curved and landscaped with a canopy of shade and the Pinellas Trail runs directly through downtown on the former bed of the historic Orange Belt Railway. More than a thousand people a day access Dunedin by trail! This transformation, along with being the home of Honeymoon Island, made Dunedin the perfect choice to be designated by the DEP’s Office of Greenways and Trails as the first official Florida Trail Town.

The Trail Town designation tells the nation that Dunedin is one of Florida’s most pedestrian and bicycle friendly cities, as well as a thriving, desirable place to live. It is an ideal partnership between the town and Florida State Parks because we share a goal of people enjoying being healthy outdoor experiences.

As part of that shared goal, we have committed to extending the existing multi-use trail connecting Dunedin to Honeymoon Island State Park by completing a 1.3-mile multi-use trail inside the park. The trail will provide safe access to the park’s beaches and amenities and help reduce traffic congestion and parking at one of Florida’s busiest state parks.

After joining the Dunedin City Commission for the trail town designation, I explored the town and trail by bicycle. What a great experience to see groups of cyclists and walkers and individuals of all ages walking, running and pushing strollers. We commend Dunedin for being bicycle and pedestrian friendly and as Florida’s first Trail Town inspiring other Florida cities to create safer ways to walk and bike to downtowns and state and local parks. 

-Eric Draper

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Earth Day Success 

 A group of Kids posing after their work day

Each year, Earth Day is celebrated by millions of Americans. It brings people together with one common goal: to take care of the planet. Florida State Parks share this mission around the calendar, and Earth Day was no exception. Around the state, 34 different parks hosted 55 Earth Day themed events, ranging from ranger led informational hikes, to volunteer beach cleanups. In addition to these events, over 20 official state park concessionaires pledged to "Skip the Straw" and now either do not carry plastic straws, or only offer them by request. Koreshan and Estero Bay Preserve State Parks had 58 participants at their Global Youth Services Day, where volunteers helped remove exotic bamboo, plant trees, and clean up the Estero River. Topsail Hill Preserve, Bill Baggs Cape Florida, and San Felasco Hammock Preserve State Parks collectively brought hundreds of volunteers out to clean up trash from beaches, trails and other park ecosystems.

See More Park Events



 UCF Students Coastline Restoration

A group of UCF Students learn about coastal restoration

A group of UCF students were recently at Tomoka State Park in Volusia County, where they assisted their professor Dr. Melinda Donnelly, as well as Marine Discovery Center Biologist Chad Truxall, on a coastal restoration project. The shoreline in areas of the park has been highly eroded, especially in areas with historic shell midden, or historic dumping mounds, left by Timucuan Indians around the 1600s. These circumstances made coastal restoration efforts in the area particularly important. An event was organized by several UCF undergraduate students, and had more than 90 volunteers total. The volunteers assembled and placed oyster bags, then helped grow and plant needed coastal plants, like mangroves. After a few hours, the students and volunteers had stabilized about 200 feet of shoreline. Suzanne Connor, a graduate student who works with Dr. Donnelly at UCF, was at the event and said “It reflects how many people it takes to make these events successful, and how many people care about Tomoka.”

Learn More About Resource Management 



Virtual Field Trips at MacArthur Beach

Two Park Staff Members participate in a Virtual Field Trip

Years ago, John D. MacArthur Beach State Park in Palm Beach County, with the help of their Citizen Support Organization (CSO) Friends of MacArthur Beach State Park and the Palm Beach County School District, created the MacBeach Explorations Program. This program is grant funded by the Robert and Mary Pew Public Education Fund, and allows students and teachers an enhanced field trip experience. One aspect of this experience are virtual field trips, which bring the incredible sights of the park’s subtropical coastal habitat into the classroom. Classrooms are also able to videoconference live with park staff, giving students the ability to ask and receive questions from park services specialists, rangers and volunteers. The programs are then recorded and shared with educators, making it possible to show their students anytime. Reaching about 10,000 students every year, the virtual field trip program has provided natural resource education throughout the state.

   Read More About Our CSOs!



Wildfire Awareness Week

A fire burns at Big Talbot Island in front of an interpretive sign


This year’s Wildfire Awareness Week took place between April 8 and 14, and marked the 20th anniversary of Florida’s worst wildfire season in 1998. That year approximately half a million acres of land were burned, and more than 300 homes and structures destroyed. Florida State Parks is committed to meticulous burn prevention planning and techniques that have help minimize the damage caused by wildfires. Prescribed Fire is the most practical way to help prevent combustible fuels from accumulating and becoming a threat to an entire ecosystem. Thanks to detailed burn plans and schedules, partnerships with local governments and other agencies, and excellent communication with surrounding communities, Florida State Parks is working hard to help eliminate the threats of wildfires.

Learn More About Prescribed Fire 






Find An Adventure at a Florida State Park!



Event DetailsMusic in the Park: Summer Concert Serier with The Grapes of Roth 

May 12

Join us at Anastasia State Park in Flagler County as we host The Grapes of Roth, an energetic classic rock trio. Come enjoy an evening of food, dancing, and music!

  Get event details here!


Event DetailsLife as the St. Andrews Hermit

May 16

Join volunteer Judith Scott at St. Andrews State Park in Bay County as we take a trip back in time to uncover the mystery of "Teddy the Hermit," a shipwrecked Norwegian sailor who called the area home for years. 

Get event details here!

Event Details66th Annual Florida Folk Festival

May 25

With the best of Florida’s music, arts and culture there is something for everyone. You’re sure to hear plenty of wonderful music, enjoy tasty food, do a little shopping and pay tribute to Florida’s land, people and diverse cultural heritage 

Get event details here! 

Congratulations to Honeymoon Island State Park for welcoming their 1 millionth visitor of the year!






 #FLStateParks in the News! 

"Half a year after Hurricane Irma, Bill Baggs is focused on a community-minded future" 

"New $13,000 vehicle will get to MacArthur beach patients faster" 

"SCA & SWA Help Turn the Tide at Storm-Damaged Barnacle Historic State Park"