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  • 07/14/2018 10:15 AM | Florida State Parks Foundation (Administrator)

    In response to recent sightings of the endangered snail kite at Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection surveyed the park and discovered a nest containing three chicks.

    Declining snail kite populations led to protection of the species under federal and state law in 1967. In 2016, Alachua County residents spotted a snail kite for the first time in nearly 20 years. Since then, estimates have put the snail kite population in the Paynes Prairie basin in the single digits.

    Last year, Hurricane Irma destroyed dozens of snail kite nests around Lake Okeechobee, the more common nesting area for the imperiled species.

    The Paynes Prairie sightings sparked the interest of the Florida Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit at the University of Florida. Wildlife biologist Brian Jeffery led the survey expedition along with Florida State Park Environmental Specialist Keith Morin.

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

    The state park also partners with the Alachua County Audubon chapter. “They provide us valuable location information on a number of species, including snail kites, through their monitoring and surveys,” Morin said. “Audubon volunteers often alert us when they see a new species present in the area. We can then investigate and survey the area as needed.”

    "We are absolutely thrilled to see the number of snail kites increase at Paynes Prairie," said Debbie Segal, President of the Alachua Audubon Society. "Not only is this great news for the species, but it is also good for Gainesville's ecotourism industry. Bird watchers from around Florida, Georgia and other southeastern states are visiting Gainesville, specifically to see this iconic bird species."

    DEP also partners with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and the Fletcher Lab at the UF Wildlife Ecology and Conservation school to help monitor sensitive wildlife in the Paynes Prairie basin.

  • 07/13/2018 10:05 AM | Florida State Parks Foundation (Administrator)

    Records are always worth talking about and the Florida Park Service has just chalked up another one.

    Land management is one of the most important missions of the Florida Park Service and it is essential if our state parks are to be protected and preserved for future generations. In fact, many of the land management policies now being enacted will not produce visible results for many years but our children and their children will be able to enjoy what is being done today.

    One tool of land management is prescribed burns and more Florida State Park acreage has been managed with prescribed fire this fiscal year than in any other previous year. In June, park staff broke the previous all-time record for managing prescribed fires on more than 80,837 acres within state parks. 

    Prescribed fires are one of Florida's most effective land-management tools, applying a natural process to improve ecosystem health, biodiversity and wildlife. Any prescription for fire takes into consideration fuel type, fuel moisture, relative humidity, air temperature, wind speed, wind direction and many other planning factors.

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

    Prescribed fires are planned, set and extinguished by specialized staff. The training is rigorous for prescribed burners, who are tested for physical stamina and trained in fire safety protocols, fire behavior and related issues.

    Florida State Parks staff play varying, important roles to conduct prescribed fire. From providing information to park visitors, to managing the burns and walking the fire line, all staff participation is recognized as helping DEP reach resource management goals. 

    More than 390 prescribed fires at 67 state parks have been conducted so far this year. Training staff, managing fuel levels, constructing new firebreaks, upgrading fire equipment and building partnerships with other agencies have helped contribute to this year's success.

    Specific benefits of prescribed fire:

    • Dead plants are removed, reducing the risk and severity of wildfires

    • Open space created by the thinning of underbrush benefits plants and wildlife

    • Nutrients are returned to the soil increasing plant growth

    • Wildlife benefits from abundant food resources

    As the year continues, staff will continue conducting prescribed fires throughout state parks. Florida State Parks have partnered with The Outsiders Club to develop educational material for youth to learn about Florida's natural resources and what DEP is doing to protect and preserve those resources for current and future generations.


  • 06/14/2018 11:31 AM | Florida State Parks Foundation (Administrator)

    Florida State Parks Foundation is proud to acknowledge all the incredible work that our park volunteers do through the annual volunteer appreciation awards but, of course, this is just the tip of the iceberg.

    Thousands of volunteers put in more than a million hours serving the parks and it is widely acknowledged that the park service could not operate as it does without them. That is why we welcome all news about volunteer achievements and are happy to be able to pass this information along in our newsletters.

    For instance, congratulations to Bob and Carol Love, from Lake Talquin State Park who are District 1’s April Volunteer of the Month. As Park Ranger Billy Harrison said, “It’s awesome to find volunteers that are talented in so many areas. With Bob and Carol’s dependability and high quality of work, they were able to take care of Lake Talquin on multiple days while I assisted staff in our other 7 parks accomplish operational goals.”

    Also kudos to the board and members of the North Florida Springs Alliance who built an impressive new deck and stairs into the water at Madison Blue Springs State Park. The CSO raised the funds and volunteers completed the ambitious project by the end of April.

    Many volunteers can turn their hands to almost anything which is just as well as so much maintenance work needs to be done to cope with every increasing park visitation. In one day, park staff and volunteers at Suwanee River Wilderness State Trail removed rotten wood and built new sections of deck and walkway at the Holton Creek River Camp. The repairs allow paddlers to walk up from the river the campsites, restrooms and camp shelters while hikers on the Florida National Scenic Trail can safely take a quick detour to the river as they pass through the river camp.

    A huge thank you to all our volunteers. We really couldn’t do it without you.

    Also, check out the new and improved Volunteer Portal at https://volunteers.floridastateparks.org
  • 06/13/2018 11:29 AM | Florida State Parks Foundation (Administrator)

    We are delighted to welcome on board Tom Linley as the Foundation’s first Programs Director. Tom brings a wealth of knowledge and experience that is a great fit for this position.

    Tom served 26 years with the Florida Park Service mostly in management positions first as Assistant Park Manager at Dr. Von D. Mizell-Eula Johnson State Park and Wekiwa Springs, then as Park Manager at St. Lucie Inlet and Homosassa Springs, and finally as Program Administrator in the Director’s Office. He served 9 years with Volunteer Florida as Chief of Staff, Director of Emergency Management and Volunteer Services. Tom is the principal of TomStar Services which provides information technology and web-based services, training, and association management services to small businesses and non-profit organizations.

    Tom’s Florida State Park, volunteer management and non-profit experience will be an asset to the Foundation and to Citizens Support Organizations (CSOs.)  In his Program Director role, he will be responsible for managing and growing the Foundation’s programs: supporting CSOs, Learning in Florida’s Environment (LIFE), the Access for All Campaign, the Yellow Bus Program, and supporting the Foundation’s membership and communication efforts.

    Tom retired from the State of Florida in 2016 and took some time off to travel and see the US and Canada with his wife, Stacie.  With some 40,000 miles traveled while visiting 37 states and 9 provinces Tom is ready to settle back down and get back to work.  We are excited to have him join the Florida State Park Foundation team in this important leadership role.
  • 06/12/2018 11:28 AM | Florida State Parks Foundation (Administrator)

    Florida State Parks Foundation is privileged to have an amazingly dynamic and energetic board to guide its activities. Over the next few months we will introduce you to the Foundation’s Directors and we start with our newest Board Member, Representative Kristin Jacobs.

    Kristin is the Executive Director of Resiliency Florida. A well-recognized and highly-regarded voice in the field of resiliency, sustainable growth and climate change policy, Jacobs also serves as the State Representative in Florida’s 96th House District. For 16 years, Kristin served as Broward County Commissioner and was twice chosen to serve as Mayor.  During her tenure, she chaired several initiatives focused on sustainability. Kristin was the visionary leading the creation of the Southeast Florida Climate Change Compact uniting Broward, Miami-Dade, Palm Beach and Monroe counties and 109 cities behind a unified mega-regional climate action plan. Now entering its 10th year, the Compact has become the national and international model of bi-partisan collaboration. She was also the sponsor of the Broward Leaders Water Academy which has served to educate five generations of elected officials on the importance of water resource issues –- including water supply, conservation, reuse, and alternative supplies and Everglades restoration.

    In 2011, Kristin was selected to serve as Chair of the White House National Ocean Council’s Governance Coordinating Committee, which advised President Obama on local government perspectives on ocean policy.  2013 found Jacobs chosen among a select few to join President Obama at Georgetown University as he unveiled the nation’s first Climate Action Plan, and that same year President Obama appointed her to the Local and Tribal Leaders Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience.  In 2014, she was the only elected official in the United States asked to speak at the White House unveiling of its third update of the National Climate Assessment, which featured her work in Southeast Florida.  Kristin has twice been invited to testify before Congress on the Clean Water Act and Climate Change issues.

    After being elected to the Florida House of Representatives, Jacobs has continued her advocacy for building a more resilient and sustainable state and not only sponsored but passed significant changes to Florida law.  These changes include an extreme weather events law that established a new multi-agency cooperation and planning framework, the establishment of a conservation area that extends the National Marine Sanctuary of the Florida Keys from the Dry Tortugas to the St. Lucie Inlet, and helped create the new entity known as the Florida Resilient Coastlines Program within DEP.

    Now in her sophomore term, Kristin serves as Democratic Ranking Member on both the Natural Resources and Public Lands Subcommittee and the Agriculture and Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee and was also appointed by the Speaker of the House to serve on his Select Committee on Hurricane Preparedness and Response following Hurricane Irma.
  • 06/11/2018 11:21 AM | Florida State Parks Foundation (Administrator)

    Florida’s award winning state parks are exceptional both because of their beauty and their diversity. They cover everything from magnificent beaches and sparkling springs to historical and archaeological sites and so much more.

    Did you know that the park system also has lighthouses and one of the most impressive of these is at Cape Florida?

    Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park is the home of a historic lighthouse built in 1825 and reconstructed in 1846. It is the oldest standing structure in Miami-Dade County. Guided tours of the lighthouse and lighthouse keeper's cottage are given twice daily, Thursdays through Mondays.

    Now, thanks to the generosity of the Florida State Parks Foundation, Bachelor Foundation and Friends of Cape Florida, many more people will be able to enjoy the incredible views from the top of the lighthouse over Biscayne Bay.

    Television cameras have been installed outside the watch room at the top of the lighthouse feeding live pictures of the views to two large flat screen monitors mounted at the bottom of the tower. Now visitors who can’t climb the lighthouse can also enjoy the views from the summit.

  • 05/23/2018 1:34 PM | Florida State Parks Foundation (Administrator)

    The Florida State Park Foundation is happy to announce that Tom Linley is joining our team as our new Program Director starting on June 1st.  Tom brings a wealth of knowledge and experience that is a great fit for this position.

    Tom served 26 years with the Florida Park Service mostly in management positions first as Assistant Park Manager at Dr. Von D. Mizell-Eula Johnson State Park and Wekiwa Springs, then as Park Manager at St. Lucie Inlet and Homosassa Springs, and finally as Program Administrator in the Director’s Office. He served 9 years with Volunteer Florida as Chief of Staff, Director of Emergency Management and Volunteer Services. Tom is the principal of TomStar Services which provides information technology and web-based services, training, and association management services to small businesses and non-profit organizations.

    Tom’s Florida State Park, volunteer management and non-profit experience will be an asset to the Foundation and to Citizen Support Organizations (CSOs.)  In his Program Director role, he will be responsible for managing and growing the Foundation’s programs: supporting CSOs, Learning in Florida’s Environment (LIFE), the Access for All Campaign, the Yellow Bus Program, and supporting the Foundation’s membership and communication efforts.

    Tom retired from the State of Florida in 2016 and took some time off to travel and see the US and Canada with his wife, Stacie.  With some 40,000 miles traveled while visiting 37 states and 9 provinces Tom is ready to settle back down and get back to work. We are excited to have him join the Florida State Park Foundation team in this important leadership role.


  • 05/09/2018 12:05 PM | Florida State Parks Foundation (Administrator)

    The Learning in Florida’s Environment (LIFE) program continues to expand and enormous thanks are due to all those who are making this possible. In the next few weeks we hope to employ a fulltime Programs Director (see below) and this should give LIFE an additional stimulus.

    When we took the LIFE program over three years ago, there were 7 participating state parks. At present, we have an awesome 34 parks offering the program or pledged to do so. That means tens of thousands of school children are learning about science and for many of them it is the first time they have ever been in a state park.

    Our aim is where practical, to have every one of our state parks used by local schools as open air classrooms for curriculum-based science labs.

    We are incredibly lucky to have Dale Allen as our first volunteer LIFE District Administrator in District 1 and we are actively looking for other folks to play a similar role in the other districts. Dale is a former science teacher and currently President of the Florida and Greenways Trails Foundation, the other statewide CSO group attached to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.

    The role of the District LIFE administrators is to provide the support and stimulus needed to keep the momentum going. This means working with the parks, CSO groups, volunteers, local schools and school superintendents to increase program participation and where possible, working with local companies willing to financially support the program. This can be either through purchase of equipment or assisting with transportation costs to get the children to and from the park.

    If you are interested in being a District LIFE Administrator or know someone who might be a good candidate, please let us know.

    Two recent LIFE programs that attracted considerable attention took place at Oscar Scherer State Park and Werner-Boyce Salt Springs State Park and deserve mentioning.

    At Oscar Scherer, a group of Lamarque Elementary School fifth-graders, became wildlife biologists for a day and they could not have been more engaged. That was exactly what Katherine Clements, an educator with the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension Sarasota County, hoped would happen when she put the program together. It was the first of three LIFE field trips the students will complete during the year.

    The program is exciting because LIFE, originally designed for middle school grades, has now been extended to fifth-graders and is exposing them to real, hands-on scientific experiences. Clements hopes that some of these students will go on to become scientists, perhaps inspired by the lessons they learned at Oscar Scherer.

    The other success involves Alan Miller, a ranger at Werner-Boyce Salt Springs State Park, who has long wanted to incorporate the LIFE program into the park’s activities.

    “The challenge, however, was their immediate neighbor, the Energy Marine Center (EMC). All area schools include the EMC in their curriculum and did not have a cost effective reason for adding a similar program here”, said park manager Adam Belden. 

    Alan, however, kept up his enthusiasm for the idea and started targeting home school groups either through social media or talking to parents with children exploring the park on a weekday.  His tenacity finally paid off with his first Home School LIFE interpretive and interactive program that hosted 29 students ages 3 to 16 as well 7 parents. “Today he exemplified what a Florida Park Service Ranger is and why the Florida Park Service is a three time gold medal winner,” said Adam. Hear, hear.

    There are many ways you can get involved and support children’s education in Florida’s state parks. You can volunteer to assist with the LIFE program as a volunteer and you can support it financially by clicking on the LIFE button in the drop down menu on the donations page.
  • 05/08/2018 11:07 AM | Florida State Parks Foundation (Administrator)
    On a near perfect Saturday at the end of April, I attended a packed District-wide Citizen Support Organization (CSO) meeting at St. Andrews State Park in Panama City.


    These meetings are incredibly important because they provide opportunities for park staff, CSOs and volunteers to learn and network from each other, and the sheer enthusiasm from all sides is inspiring and energizing.

    The Florida State Parks Foundation (formerly Friends of Florida State Parks) has changed its focus in recent years. While the mission is, and always will be, to support and sustain and protect and preserve our magnificent state parks, how we do that has evolved.

    We now include supporting and sustaining our CSO groups as one of our three key programs because this is vital to the success of our parks - and that is why these meeting are so important.

    There are 83 CSO groups statewide and last year 14,400 volunteers contributed over 1,200,000 hours working in Florida’s award winning and nationally-acclaimed state parks. The work performed by these volunteers would have required an additional 666 full-time employees thus saving taxpayers almost $29 million.

    CSOs assist parks in many ways. They fundraise, provide special events and visitor programs, and contribute to capital improvement projects that the Division of Recreation and Parks would not have had the financial ability or staffing to complete. They interact with members of the public and they can be found in the parks whatever the weather, doing whatever is necessary to enhance the visitor experience. That is why the Foundation is committed to doing everything it can to make the lives of our CSOs easier so that they can focus on their mission which is supporting the work of their individual parks.

    Our volunteers, and the rangers they work alongside, are the public face of the parks but what they help achieve is often less appreciated and understood. The 175 state parks, greenways and trails have an overall direct economic impact of over $3 billion dollars on local economies throughout the state. Over $72 million was added last year to the state’s general revenue fund in the form of state sales taxes, and approximately 19,000 jobs were supported as the result of the state parks, greenways and trails operations.

    These numbers are staggering and the only thing more staggering is the sheer beauty and diversity of the state parks that make this possible.

    Your membership of the Foundation helps make this possible and for that we are forever grateful. Check out the website of your local state park and it will tell you if it has a CSO. It will also tell you about upcoming events, volunteer opportunities and other ways in which you can support it.

    Thank you and continue to support our state parks and the people who work in them.
  • 04/15/2018 11:03 AM | Florida State Parks Foundation (Administrator)

    Thanks to the fundraising efforts of the Friends of Jonathan Dickinson State Park people with limited mobility can now get out on the park’s trails with family and friends.  And, that’s just what I did using their new Action Trackchair.

    The Action Trackchair is an all-terrain power “wheelchair” that doesn’t have wheels!  It has tracks like a tank or bulldozer making it possible to go from pavement to dirt and gravel, mud, and even loose sand.  You can see the chair in use on Kitching Creek Trail here.

    Johnathan Dickinson State Park is located in South Florida in Martin and Palm Beach Counties.  For more information go to the webpage at the link above or Johnathan Dickinson State Park.
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