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  • 06/15/2017 10:43 AM | Friends of Florida State Parks, Inc. (Administrator)
    KEY WEST, Fla. – The Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s Florida Park Service joined Naval Air Station Key West, the city of Key West and other local representatives for a ribbon-cutting ceremony to celebrate the opening of the new entrance to Fort Zachary Taylor State Park. The new entrance includes a new access route for pedestrians and vehicles leading into the park, a new ranger station and a new ticket booth for pedestrians and bicyclists. Other improvements that were part of the $1.7 million project include a new road, sidewalks, bike lanes, the installation of a new entry gate, an ornamental security fence and new lighting.

    "I'm excited to open this new entrance that will improve access and convenience at Florida's southernmost state park," said Florida State Parks Assistant Director Matt Mitchell. "Many thanks to all of our partners on this project including NAS Key West and the city of Key West, as well as our staff and volunteers who made this project a reality."

    Designated a National Historic Landmark in 1973, Florida’s southernmost state park is popular for recreation, as well as U.S. military history. The fort was one of a series built in the mid-1800s to defend the nation’s southeastern coastline. Completed in 1866, Fort Zachary Taylor played important roles in the Civil War and Spanish-American War. Key West’s favorite beach, located at the southern end of the park, provides opportunities for picnicking, swimming, snorkeling and fishing.

    (the above image is of Matt Mitchell, Florida State Parks assistant Directors; Captain Bobby Baker, commander, NAS Key West, Erin Muir, assistant to Representative Holly Rashchein; Jim Scholl, Key West City manager; and John Mael, Florida State Parks District 5 bureau chief.)

  • 06/15/2017 10:33 AM | Friends of Florida State Parks, Inc. (Administrator)

    Florida State Parks could not maintain the high level of service to Florida’s citizens and visitors without the work of volunteers. There are approximately 85 CSOs each devoted to supporting a specific state park or sometimes a group of parks located in the same vicinity. Each year the Florida Park Service nominates CSOs who have especially gone above and beyond and a committee of the Friends of Florida State Parks pick the winner. Friends of Camp Helen State Park is the deserving winner for 2016.

  • 06/15/2017 10:15 AM | Friends of Florida State Parks, Inc. (Administrator)

    Recently, Yellow Buses in the Parks funding was able to cover the bus transportation costs so that an entire 4th grade class was able to participate in the Junior Ranger Program at Lake Talquin State Park located in the Tallahassee area of Florida.

    The Florida State Parks Junior Ranger Program provides the opportunity for young people to learn, serve and share our parks' natural and cultural resources.  After completing six core activities the Junior Ranger Pledge is recited and each child receives a Certificate, Member ID Card and the Official Junior Ranger PASSPORT.

    The Junior Ranger Pledge

    "As a Junior Ranger, I promise to protect the plants, animals, water, geological
    features, culture and history of Florida State Parks. I promise to continue to learn
    about parks and share what I have learned with others.”

    Families with children are welcome to participate at any state park that offers the program.  Learn more about the Junior Ranger program and find out which parks participate here.

    And help us get many more kids to Florida State Parks so they may benefit from all the great programs held there.  Busy family lives mean kids may not get to parks as they might like to.  Field trips during the school year ensures more kids will get to the parks.  Teachers are heartedly enthusiastic about bringing their classes to the parks but often the school districts lack the funds to get them there.  With your help Yellow Buses in the Parks can continue to fund field trip transportation costs.  To make your donation go to our website here and specify Yellow Buses.
  • 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.

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