The Florida State Parks Foundation is reflecting on its 2020 work assisting the Florida Park Service. But like everyone, the group is also looking forward to the start of 2021 and the end of what was a cruddy 2020.
“I am sure that we all will be glad to see the end of 2020. It certainly has been a tumultuous year and we share the pain of all those who have suffered during these difficult times,” said Foundation CEO Julia Gill Woodward in a year-end message.
“However, as we approach the new year, we should reflect on the good things that have happened and look forward with hope to whatever may be round the corner in 2021.”
The organization works on preservation, education and volunteer initiatives to help sustain the 175 state parks located throughout Florida. The foundation began in 1993 as Friends of Florida State Parks. Volunteers donate more than a million hours each year helping the group.
Woodward took over as the foundation’s CEO in 2019. She previously served as chief of staff for former Rep. Gwen Graham, and also ran Graham’s campaigns for Congress and Governor.
“Despite the challenges faced during 2020, volunteers and park staff kept operations going, providing a welcome and safe place for people wanting to exercise and explore the outdoors during these restricted social times,” Woodward added.
“The Foundation is truly fortunate to have the support of the many tens of thousands of folks – both volunteers and supporters — who recognize the importance of our fabulous state parks and the need to protect and preserve them for generations to come. The impact they have cannot be overstated. Also during the year, $500,000 was raised to benefit Florida State Parks,” Woodward said.
Woodward’s end of year note spotlighted the group’s support for the Sea Turtle Ambassador Program at John D. MacArthur Beach State Park and aiding Hurricane Michael restoration efforts at St. Andrews State Park. The organization also funded training for nearly 100 park rangers in 2020.
Their work is continuing during the close of 2020 and into 2021.
“In the next few weeks, thanks to your support, we will start planting more than 83,000 longleaf pine seedlings, mostly in parks that suffered devastating tree loss caused by recent hurricanes,” Woodward said.
“Through the work of many, much has been accomplished. Together we will continue to ensure that Florida’s state parks remain the best in the nation and a treasure that we can all be proud of.”