The Florida State Parks Foundation has been on a victory tour since securing a park-centric specialty plate. But that wasn’t the organization’s only achievement this year.
The foundation, a nonprofit that supports the Park Service, improved conservation efforts and accessibility at some of the state’s 175 parks and trails. It also grew the organization’s membership to record levels.
Florida State Parks Foundation President Tammy Gustafson recently lauded the organization and its accomplishments this year.
“Through the work of many, much has been accomplished,” Gustafson said. “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.”
The specialty plate still remains the organization’s most high-profile achievement of the year. The license plate, outlined in legislation (HB 249) sponsored by Ocala Republican Sen. Dennis Baxley and Tallahassee Democratic Rep. Allison Tant, cleared its 3,000-preorder threshold in less than 34 days, allowing it to go from concept to reality. It has gone into production and will be available in early 2022.
“The Foundation is truly fortunate to have the support of the many thousands of folks who recognize the importance of our fabulous state parks and the need to protect and preserve them for generations to come,” Gustafson said. “The impact you have cannot be overstated. Your generosity has enabled the Foundation to make significant accomplishments in its mission of protecting, preserving, sustaining and growing our Florida State Parks.”
At Silver Springs State Park, the organization built and launched the park’s first-ever wheelchair accessible glass bottom boat. The boat has been named Chief Potackee — Betty Mae Tiger Jumper, after the only woman to serve as chief of the Seminole Tribe of Florida.
The organization funded a new accessible playground at Edward Ball Wakulla Springs State Park. And at Oscar Scherer State Park, it broke ground on an accessible fishing pier.
The organization helped protect sea turtles at Sebastian Inlet State Park and John D. MacArthur Beach State Park. At St. Sebastian River Preserve State Park, it provided habitat maintenance for the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker.
At John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park the organization provided funding for coral reef research. And at Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park the group expanded manatee care.
The organization also funded Fort Mose Historic State Park’s Flight to Freedom Trail, which tells the story of the first freed Black settlement in the precolonial United States. It also commemorated the namesakes of Dr. Von D. Mizell — Eula Johnson State Park, two civil rights icons.