It takes a huge amount of work to protect, preserve and maintain all of our parks infrastructure and for that we have to thank the dedication of the park staff and the army of volunteers who support them. I know I have said this before but it is worth repeating over and over again.

Florida’s parks attract more than 26 million visitors every yearmore visitors than Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom. Florida’s parks generate more than$1.1 billion in visitor spending every year that goes into the local economy.

Just as important is the fact the Florida’s 171 award-winning state parks and trails are every Floridian’s backyard. They provide a taste of the Real Florida and an opportunity to commune with nature, exercise, sunbathe, swim or kayak and a host of other things.

The parks are also a unique and living repository of Florida’s rich cultural and historical past. In many of our parks we can connect with the earliest settlers, the Paleo-Indians who arrived more than 11, 000 years ago and all those that followed them and who helped make Florida such a rich and diverse state.

When you walk the trails, swim in the sea or splash in the springs remember the people that make this possible. Our park rangers are some of the most dedicated – and talented – people I have ever met. They work outdoors in all weathers to keep our parks operating. They are able to turn their hands to almost any task – from construction to fire fighting and from trail maintenance to interpretive talks and visitor meet and greets. Supporting them is an army of 27,000 who last year donated more than 1.4 million hours volunteering in the park. They do it because they love the parks with a passion.

So, the next time you are enjoying some time in one of our wonderful state parks, share a thought for the rangers and volunteers who help make it all possible. If you enjoy your visit, why not make a donation as all monies are spent on projects in the park. And, if you live near a park why not think about volunteering.

There are scores of ways a volunteer can help. You may have special skills that can be utilized. You may be great at working with children or greeting visitors. Our parks would certainly not be the treasures they are today if it wasn’t for the dedication of our volunteers. Why not be part of this great family!

Every park has a park service specialist whose duties including recruiting volunteers. Most parks have a nonprofit volunteer group that you could join. You can learn more from the Florida Park Service’s website.

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