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  • 05/11/2017 2:49 PM | Friends of Florida State Parks, Inc. (Administrator)

    The Florida Park Service would not be the three-time Gold Medal organization that it is today without the vital support of our volunteers. Last year more than 29,000 volunteers contributed over 1.2 million hours of service. Florida's state parks are fortunate to have so many passionate and dedicated volunteers.

    The Volunteer Awards celebrate exceptional individuals, teams and CSOs which choose to serve the Florida Park Service with their time and talent. The winners are selected in nine categories by the Friend of Florida State Parks Recognition Committee, from nominations made by the parks.

    Lois Rose – Winner of Adult Female Volunteer of 2016 

    Silver Springs State Park in Ocala has been fortunate to receive nearly 700 hours of expert software engineering skills and expertise from volunteer, Lois Rose, to digitize and preserve the park's cultural and historical resources. The digitization of these resources provides copies to be used for interpretive materials.

    Sally Lieb, Park Manager says, "One of many challenges faced with the acquisition of the Springs area was and continues to be the accession and handling of historic documents, photographs, memorabilia, films, records and so on.  Thanks to the digitizing work of Lois and her team these multitudes of items are readily available for use by all park service personnel and others while the originals are still being preserved in proper storage.”

    Thank you for your service, Lois!

    Rodger Chambers – Winner of Adult Male Volunteer of 2016

    For eight years Gamble Rogers Memorial State Recreation Area & North Peninsula State Park has been the lucky recipient of Rodger’s time, skill and expertise.  In 2016 Rodger contributed more than 850 hours as a volunteer adding up to 10,255 lifetime hours given to the Florida Park Service.

    Space doesn’t allow for a full list of Rodger’s accomplishments but here are a few - He has built five substantial interpretive kiosks for the park’s trails and butterfly garden. He’s made many improvements to the riverside camping area including reworking the water faucets at tent sites so they are easier to use, installing site designation posts, installing all new signage, installing t-posts for campers to hang items and more.  He works alongside the park staff as a member of the team and brings an invaluable skill set to the park that saves thousands of dollars annually.  

    Thank you for your service, Rodger!

  • 05/11/2017 2:07 PM | Friends of Florida State Parks, Inc. (Administrator)
    In FY 2016, state parks had an economic impact of over $2.8 billion on local economies throughout Florida. $191,604,535 was contributed to the state’s general revenues in the form of state sales taxes. More than 45,525 jobs were created in local economies as a result of state park operations. In many rural counties throughout the state, the state park is one of the most important attractions drawing visitors to the county and supporting small businesses that depend on tourism for survival.

     

    To see the facts on your favorite park, click here!

  • 05/11/2017 12:39 PM | Friends of Florida State Parks, Inc. (Administrator)

    One of the best ways we can preserve our fabulous award-winning state parks it to teach our children how wonderful they are and why they need to be protected for their children’s children. That is why Friends of Florida State Parks was proud to take over the LIFE program (Learning in Florida’s Environment) from the Department of Environmental Protection in 2015 and become its statewide administrator.

    The curriculum-based LIFE program brings thousands of middle school children into the parks every year and for many, it is the first time they have been to a state park. They spend a day doing approved science experiments using the parks as open area science labs. More important, they have fun and want to come back.

    For the last year, we have vigorously promoted the LIFE program and we are delighted to report that it is really catching on. We now have 20 parks offering the program or pledged to start it in the next few months. Our aim is to have 50 participating parks by 2020 which would mean at least 50,000 schoolchildren visiting the parks every year and perhaps very many more. It costs about $5,000 to supply each park with the scientific equipment it needs for their participating schools to use.

    Developing the program and providing the resources to administer and manage it takes considerable time, money and expertise – but it is a program that will reap huge dividends by providing a different, more experiential learning experience to thousands of children who will, hopefully, become the guardians of our parks in the years ahead.

    The success of the LIFE program has, however, flagged up a major problem and one that we need your help to resolve. Most, if not all, school districts in Florida have had to cut field trips from their budgets because of transportation costs.  To counter this we started the Yellow Buses in the Park program to provide grants to cover these busing costs. Since this program was started more than $22,000 has been awarded in grants.

    Now thanks to the success of the LIFE program we are getting many more requests for these grants. We receive no state funding and rely on donations and applying for grants to cover these costs but it is getting more difficult to secure grants and many grant awards are not made until many months after the initial application.

    So, we are asking you, dear readers, to help fund this program so that it does not falter. We have pledged to raise $10,000 so that we can satisfy current grant requests and those that we expect in the next few months as more parks work with their local schools and host the LIFE program.

    We realize that there are many demands made of you but the Yellow Bus program literally drives children into our state parks and if we can’t make any grants the children will not be able to come. You can donate on the website and mark the donation ‘yellow buses’. No donation is too small and every cent helps.

    If you love the parks as passionately as we do, please consider making a donation and help to make a difference. After all, these children are our future and if they learn to love the parks that is one of the greatest legacies we can have.


    If you would like to donate, please click here!

  • 04/26/2017 9:40 AM | Friends of Florida State Parks, Inc. (Administrator)

    If you want to get the most out of your Florida State Parks visit, try getting a Florida State Parks Passport! There are several different options to choose from.

    The new Premium Passport is the ultimate park companion! 216 pages filled with useful information about the parks, places to collect stamps from the different parks visited, a fold out map of the different parks and park districts, as well of plenty of space to take notes. This spiral bound booklet is a great item for any park lover!

    The Real Florida Passport is your perfect companion while visiting Florida State Parks! The Pioneer Edition contains 56 pages of fun facts, a state map of the parks, plenty of space to make notes and stamp which parks you've visited so far. Buckle up and let the journey begin!

    To view more about these passports, go to the website here.

  • 04/26/2017 9:29 AM | Friends of Florida State Parks, Inc. (Administrator)

    Are you ready for a road trip?

    Easily plan your adventure with multi-day trip guides for Florida's state parks and trails. Separated by region, it’s a great tool to plan your next road trip.

    View the website here.

  • 04/26/2017 9:18 AM | Friends of Florida State Parks, Inc. (Administrator)
    On March19th, a park visitor noticed that our baby owl was hanging upside down by its talons, and then fell about 70 feet to the ground. Park staff responded quickly and rescued the owlet. Fortunately, the bird was not injured.


    The next day, the owlet was placed in a crate and strapped to a branch near the nest by a brave tree climber. The adults began feeding their chick and all is well. Take a hike on the Osprey Trail to view this amazing scene (bring binoculars!)

  • 04/26/2017 9:01 AM | Friends of Florida State Parks, Inc. (Administrator)

    Park staff can often be heard to say, “We couldn’t do what we do without our wonderful volunteers.”  To help show appreciation every year park staff nominates those who deserve special recognition.  Friends of Florida State Parks organizes a committee (also volunteers) to review the nominations for the nine categories and pick the winners.  Also, we fund the cost of the award plaques.  In this newsletter, we send our congratulations to Nevaeh Sheats and Brendon Kerkela!  Best wishes and many thanks to you both!

     

    The 2016 Outstanding Male Youth Volunteer Award goes to Brendon Kerkela for Exceptional Service and Support to Jonathan Dickinson State Park in Hobe Sound.

    Brendon, 17, graduated from high school at 15 years of age and completed his AA in Anthropology at 16. He is currently a junior, studying Elementary Education, at Indian River State College and has a 3.4 Grade Point Average. His over 1,000 hours of volunteer service includes helping with interpretive programs, aiding with volunteer program administration and assisting natural resource management; he does all this despite being enrolled in college and working two jobs.

     

    The 2016 Outstanding Female Youth Volunteer Award goes to Nevaeh Sheats for Exceptional Service and Support to Silver Springs State Park in Ocala.

    At age 14, Nevaeh is a dedicated and important component of the parks cabin cleaning crew. She is extremely important to the team during heavy turnover days. A busy day preparing cabins for our next valued visitors is a time-consuming task for the entire staff. An extra person with a work ethic like hers is what is needed to clear, clean, and turn over 10 luxury cabins in time to create a special experience for our next visitors. Neveah is a team player and the fine work that she does garners many positive visitor comments. She has also assisted with park events and worked cleaning campsites, bathhouses and day use areas in the park. In general, she is a hard-working volunteer that is always a positive influence.

  • 04/25/2017 5:47 PM | Friends of Florida State Parks, Inc. (Administrator)

    Governor Scott’s proposed budget includes funds to purchase much needed fire trucks another fire equipment enabling the Florida Park Service to continue to conduct prescribed fires in the parks and control wildfires.  This request for funding is being considered by key legislative environmental committees right now. Contact these committees and your local legislators (contact info in the above article) and urge them to support this important funding.

    Gov. Rick Scott declares a state of emergency across Florida due to increased wildfires.

    The Florida Park Service has always endeavored to prevent wildfires in its parks by conducting what is called “prescribed fires”.  Frequent fire is a natural part of Florida’s ecosystem.  It’s nature’s way of cleaning up fallen branches, leaves, and dry dead grasses.  If this debris is allowed to build up and a fire occurs, be it by human accident or a lightning strike, the fire will be much larger and hotter and may blaze up into the canopy potentially causing tree damage or even death. 

    Adequate funding for fire trucks and equipment will ensure adequate prescribed burns continue in Florida State Parks keeping the parks and surrounding development safe from out-of-control wildfires.Show your support for funding fire trucks and equipment by contacting your local legislator and the key legislative environmental committees right now.  Asking them to support the proposed budget for the Division of Recreation and Parks (which includes specific funding for Florida State Parks).  Contact info is shown in the first article of this newsletter.
  • 04/25/2017 3:16 PM | Friends of Florida State Parks, Inc. (Administrator)

    Governor Scott’s 2017-18 recommended budget totaling more than $153 million for the Division of Recreation and Parks is a 17% increase over the last budget. This request includes, more than $50 million for Florida state park enhancements, management and facility improvements. 

    Show your support for the parks you love by contacting your local representatives and asking them to approve this budget.  Tell them what these parks mean to you whether it’s rest or play or discovering Florida’s natural beauty and history.  Let your voices be heard – call, write, phone.

    Find contact info for your State Senator.

    Find contact info for your State Representative.


    Key Environmental Committees and Legislators:

    Senate

    Senate President

    Committee on Environmental Preservation and Conservation

    Appropriations Subcommittee on the Environment and Natural Resources

    Appropriations Subcommittee on Finance and Tax

    House

                                     
    Speaker of the House

    Agriculture & Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee

    Natural Resources and Public Lands Subcommittee

  • 04/18/2017 9:00 PM | Friends of Florida State Parks, Inc. (Administrator)

    Florida’s State Parks, which attract 31 million visitors a year and pump more than $2.8 billion into the state’s economy, face a potentially crippling $10 million budget cut if the Florida House of Representatives’ proposed budget is approved.

    “Cutting funding for state parks is a bad idea, for many reasons,” said Paula Russo, President of Friends of Florida State Parks, a nonprofit organization that supports the park system through education, preservation and financial efforts. “Our state parks attract tourists and residents alike; they are a key cog in Florida’s economic engine.”

    According to the state Department of Environmental Protection, $191.6 million of the $2.8 billion Florida State Parks contributed to Florida’s economy in fiscal 2016 was general revenue, meaning the parks helped support other programs. Florida State Parks also were responsible for 45,525 local jobs.

    “Our award-winning state parks are one of Florida’s main economic drivers,” Russo said. “People travel to Florida to visit these treasures. They spend money and pay sales taxes. Allowing this cut jeopardizes Florida’s tourist economy unnecessarily and is a set-back in keeping our parks environments healthy and safe. It doesn't make sense.”

    The $10 million cut, almost 25 percent of the current state parks budget, targets the parks’ land-management program and an 80% reduction in land-management funding. Land-management efforts restore and preserve the natural beauty of park property through removal of invasive and exotic plants, which choke out and kill native species; prescribed burns to reduce the threat of wildfires on park property, which would also threaten residential and commercial developments near parks; and habitat preservation for endangered species. Since January, more than 126,000 acres have burned across the state. Today, 110 wildfires are burning over 20,000 acres across Florida. Cutting our prescribed fire management program places our parks in unnecessary jeopardy.


    Also on the House’s budgetary chopping block are $2 million in land-management funds for the state’s Water Management Districts. The Senate budget does not include cuts to state parks, but it does not increase funding. Gov. Rick Scott’s budget, however, calls for a 17 percent increase over the current budget.

    The $50 million the governor has requested for state parks would be used for management, facility improvements and park enhancements, including $4 million to make the parks compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act; $2.7 million for fire equipment; $1.9 million for road repairs; and $1 million for the Parks and Community Trails program.

    “I urge everyone who loves our state parks to contact their state legislators and encourage them to vote for the governor’s budget,” Russo said. “At minimum, please ask them to restore state park funding to the current 2017 level. This is the cost of doing business, and the parks more than pay for themselves, many times over.”

    View the document here.

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