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~ Florida's miles of sandy beaches await eco-friendly travelers~


A scenic view of the lighthouse at Lovers Key State Park on Fort Myers Beach.

TALLAHASSEE – The 2013 spring travel season has begun, and with it comes an opportunity to take in the sights and sounds associated with Florida's seemingly endless coastlines. Whether traveling to the Atlantic Coast, the Gulf of Mexico or the Straits of Florida, the state is lined by Florida's most recognizable natural resource -- beaches.

"Florida welcomes millions of visitors every spring to our award-winning state parks and beaches, kept clean in part by efforts of Department staff," said DEP Secretary Herschel T. Vinyard, Jr. "Beach nourishment projects led by Department staff are critical to ensuring Florida's famous beaches are kept healthy and available for all to enjoy."

Florida is home to 825 miles of sandy coastline that is not only one of the state's most popular tourist attractions, but also home to hundreds of plants and animals that are dependent on beach dunes and near shore waters to survive. For example, beaches are used by resident and migratory shorebirds for resting, foraging and nesting and during the summer months, marine turtles come ashore to nest on the beach.

Floridians come to the beaches to relax and enjoy the natural beauty, and 75 percent of all residents live within ten miles of the coast. Tourists visit the beaches and nearby waters to engage in boating, fishing, diving and other recreations. Florida's beaches are an integral part of the state's economy, attracting tourists from around the world - beach tourism generates about $15 billion a year to the state’s economy.

While Florida's beaches provide a major recreational and economic service to our state, it is critical that we take the time to mitigate our negative impact on these priceless areas. The Department currently has 27 Gulf Coast and 34 Atlantic Coast beach nourishment projects gathering data about erosion hotspots since 2002. These projects are vital to beach rehabilitation, and Florida is now home to more than 222 miles of restored beaches.

While tourists visit our coastline, many choose to minimize their environmental footprint by traveling green and staying in hotels that are conscious of their impact on our ecosystem. The Florida Green Lodging Program is an initiative that encourages resort facilities to lower their environmental impact by taking measures to reduce water usage, increase recycling and instill best management practices throughout their organization. Currently, the program is approaching 700 facilities enrolled throughout the state, representing more than 40 percent of all hotel rooms in Florida.

Spring travelers can also find many great escapes along the 100 miles of beach access available in one of 41 of Florida's State Parks:

-Go horseback riding on the beach at Anastasia State Park in St. Augustine.

-Hang 10 with the regular surfers at Sebastian Inlet State Park in Melbourne Beach.

-Visit Florida's southernmost state park, Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park in Key West for recreation and to learn about U.S. military history.

Go to or download the official Florida State Parks app for iPhone and Android systems to find the perfect spring destination.