When you join Friends of Florida State Parks we are all winners

When Friends of Florida State Parks was founded in 1993 it had four main goals. These were to raise funds to increase the parks’ self-sufficiency, increase visitation and public awareness of the parks,  promote volunteerism and assist local park’s Friends groups.

By any measure we have been truly successful. In 1993 the Florida Park Service was 45% self-sufficient and today that figure is 76%. Last year more than 26 million people from all over the world visited our award-winning parks – more visitors than even Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom can claim. In 1993 there were just 33 Friends groups and today there are 84 representing more than 100 parks and with more than 27,000 volunteers. And, over the years, Friends of Florida State Parks and the local Friends groups have raised more than $5 million to fund major projects in the parks.

With all this success, you would have thought we could relax and pat ourselves on the back for a job well done. Unfortunately, there is still so much more that needs to be done and that is why your membership is so crucial to the ongoing success of our beautiful parks.

Florida has more state parks than any other state in the U.S. and we are the only state that over the last decade or so has not closed or mouth-balled a single state park because of economic conditions. In fact, Florida continues to acquire new land to add to the nearly 800,000 acres it already manages. The fact is that the land managed by Florida’s state parks is growing while its budget and full-time staff has been declining.

While the park system is now 76% self-sufficient there is still not the money available to do everything that needs to be done to maintain buildings, trails and infrastructure; increase accessibility; invest in new equipment and the thousand and one other tasks needed to keep the parks running from day to day.

In the last three years, your membership dues have helped to install new interpretive panels, replaced observation decks, and guard rails, build playgrounds and nature centers and created new trails and off-road cycle paths. These are just a handful of the projects that have been completed or are underway but there are many, many more waiting for the funds to allow them to start.

Your membership fees help to provide those funds. When you join or renew your membership you get a really great deal because the value of your annual dues is more than matched by the free day passes you get to any and all of our state parks. But by joining you are doing so much more, you are giving us the resources we need to ensure that the Florida Park Service remains the very best the nation has to offer. And that is something we can all be proud of.

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