Florida Park Service Honors Park Volunteers in Central Florida

Press Release Banner


CONTACT: DEP Press Office, 850.245.2112, DEPNews@dep.state.fl.us

Florida Park Service Honors
Park Volunteers in Central Florida

~Volunteers contribute more than 1.2 million hours of service annually across the state~

Thank you, Volunteers Banner

TALLAHASSEE, Fla.  – The Florida Department of Environmental Protection is honoring central Florida individuals and groups with 2017 Volunteer Appreciation Awards for their invaluable contributions at Florida State Parks.

More than 14,400 state park volunteers and 80 Friends groups, or citizen support organizations (CSOs), contribute over 1.2 million hours of service annually. From painting cabins to leading nature hikes, volunteers help protect resources and improve visitor experiences at Florida's 175 state parks and trails. In addition to individual volunteers, a network of CSOs support individual state parks or groups of parks.

In central Florida, 10 volunteer recognition honors were awarded:

  • Matthew Thayer at Colt Creek State Park was honored as Youth Volunteer of the Year for Maintenance. He helps with mowing, trail maintenance, carpentry and countless other chores.
  • Bill Lewis was honored as Adult Volunteer for Maintenance at Marjorie Harris Carr Cross Florida Greenway, where he performs upkeep, repair and maintenance, and takes the lead on park improvements.
  • Jean Fletcher was named Adult Volunteer for Protection at Hontoon Island State Park, where she has served weekly for 13 years as the island store manager and clerk.
  • Sam Carr won Adult Volunteer for Visitor Service for being a dedicated CSO member and volunteer at Dunns Creek State Park. He is a constant champion for the park within the community.
  • Volunteer Jerry Allen led construction of the Manatee Pavilion, which won Short-Term Project of the Year for Resource-Based Recreation at Gamble Rogers Memorial State Recreation Area at Flagler Beach.
  • The Friends of Dunns Creek State Park won Special Event of the Year for Natural Resource Education for an Earth Day celebration that included 17 environmentally-friendly agencies and many educational activities.
  • The Friends of Colt Creek State Park won Special Event of the Year for Resource Management for the "Get to Know Colt Creek" event, which attracted more than 1,000 visitors.
  • Volunteers Darwin and JoAnne Matthews won Team of 2 - Maintenance. They have worked as resident volunteers at multiple state parks, most recently serving as campground hosts at Anastasia State Park and now at Ravine Gardens State Park. They help with electrical, carpentry and plumbing projects and more.
  • Volunteers David and Judy Wall, Douglas Johnson, Harvey Gilbert, Bob Clarke, Al and Peggy Thibodeaux, Joe Dowdell and Jean Fletcher won Team of 3+ - Protection at Hontoon Island State Park. The volunteers contributed 270 hours to reinforce a bulkhead.
  • Park volunteers and community members won Team of 3+ - Resource Management at Gamble Rogers and North Peninsula state parks. They contributed more than 400 hours to remove post-hurricane debris before the start of sea turtle nesting season. Volunteer Ramona Rutkowski was instrumental in organizing clean-ups.

Congratulations to the individuals and groups honored during the statewide 2017 Volunteer Awards, sponsored by the Friends of Florida State Parks. Find more information about the 40+ volunteers and Friends groups that received statewide awards on the Volunteer Appreciation page of FloridaStateParks.org. Additional recipients will be featured in coming months.

Volunteers support and improve Florida State Parks with their time and talent. Learn how to get involved.