Florida State Parks Celebrates Clean Air Month




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A Message From Eric Draper

A woman taking a deep breath in front of the text

When walking with people in state parks, I like to point out how clean the air is. Then I tell them that the air is clean because Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection works hard to control and reduce air pollution.

Florida’s air quality was not always as clean as it is today. In fact, my desire to protect our air resources was part of my decision to be a conservation advocate. Just a decade after college, I was honored to participate in a meeting at the White House with President George Bush to discuss the federal Clean Air Act. The Clean Air Act was established to protect public health by regulating hazardous air pollutants.

In Florida, DEP administers the Clean Air Act and works to protect and improve Florida air quality, helping ensure Florida’s air is among the cleanest in the nation. Thanks to DEP’s efforts statewide, emissions in Florida continue to improve and are now the lowest they have been on record. These reductions in air pollution has given us more vivid and stunning views of the night sky, leading to two of our state parks receiving certification from the International Dark Sky Association.

May is both Clean Air Month and National Bicycling Month. With that in mind, I hope we can all help conserve energy and reduce air pollution by replacing some car trips with walking or cycling.

DEP, along with the Florida Department of Transportation, is making it easier to use a bike to get around and get exercise. We are working together to expand access to state and local bike trails and encouraging bicycle and pedestrian friendly transportation routes. With trails such as the Cross Florida Greenway, the Florida Keys Overseas Heritage Trail and the soon to be built Honeymoon Island spur, there are great places and ways to traverse Florida.

So if you see me out there on the road taking my bike to work, understand that I’m doing my part to help keep our air clean. Please keep a safe distance of three feet and give a friendly smile and wave as you pass by. Please be sure to check out Florida’s bicycle friendly parks at FloridaStateParks.org.

-Eric Draper

Learn More About Clean Air Month


  Springs Restoration at Lafayette Blue 

A picture of Lafayette Blue Springs State Park with clear water

Florida’s springs are a one of a kind resource. With more than 1,000 springs in the state, they provide a home to plant and animal life, a source of freshwater for rivers and streams and the perfect backdrop for memorable experiences. However, some springs around the state are in need of help. Florida State Parks, along with other Florida Department of Environmental Protection staff, are working collaboratively to improve protection and the health of the state’s springs.

Lafayette Blue Springs State Park in Lafayette County is home to an ongoing restoration project. Florida State Parks District Biologist Anne Barkdoll often monitors Lafayette Blue Springs for algae levels and water clarity. She also looks for ways to improve park management and maintenance processes, as well as redesign structures to minimize impacts to the spring. “We’ve redesigned the parking lot to reduce runoff, altered our mowing practices and planted native vegetation to minimize erosion,” Barkdoll said, “we’re taking steps to improve what we can within the park.”

Florida Department of Environmental Protection is also trying to take proactive steps in Lafayette Blue Springs. The Suwannee River Water Management District has drawn up detailed action plans aimed at establishing healthy water flow and levels. They have worked with local communities to help instill the best groundwater pumping and fertilizer use practices. Most importantly all of Florida DEP is working to shift the focus from short-term fixes to long-term, holistic approaches to ensure the protection of clean and abundant groundwater for the future.

Learn More About Florida's Springs


 Audubon Shorebird Protection

A group of Plover's on Ft. Clinch State Park's Beach

Summer in the state of Florida means shorebird nesting season is well underway. Although this time of year brings incredible species of birds, like the American oystercatcher, black skimmer and Wilson’s plover, these species face conservation challenges. Florida’s beaches also experience a lot of recreational use, especially during the summer. Shorebird nests are often built in the shallow sand and can be difficult to see, due to camouflaging. Florida State Parks partners with Audubon Florida to help protect shorebirds. Volunteers monitor shorebird nests, rope off areas to encourage shorebird nesting and rope off nests. Audubon volunteers also serve as ambassadors, educating the community on the importance of shorebirds and how everyone can help protect and conserve the environment.

Sean Cooley of Audubon Florida explained how the group assists Florida State Parks and staff. “Most of our work falls into either conservation or education. A lot of people don’t really understand how sensitive these birds are,” Cooley said. When most people see birds sitting on their eggs, they assume it’s to keep them warm and incubated. On the smoldering Florida coast, it’s the opposite. “People will get too close to nests and the bird will run away out of fear. With those eggs left unattended for just a few minutes, they can get too hot and there won’t be a hatchling.”

While state parks staff continue to protect wildlife and the environment, there are ways that everyone can help while enjoying Florida State Parks. Picking up all your trash on the beach, especially properly disposing of monofilament fishing line, is one way visitors can help reduce their impact. Additionally, they can attend a beach cleanup event in a state park or one of the Audubon’s numerous Bird Counts. The partnership between Audubon and Florida State Parks is one that benefits everyone, and thanks to their dedication, Florida residents and visitors can look forward to seeing incredible species of birds for generations to come.

Learn More About Audubon






Dark Skies Around the State

A view of the Milky Way over one of St. George Island's pavilions

Stargazing at Dr. Julian G. Bruce St. George Island State Park in Franklin County has always been outstanding. Located roughly an hour east of Panama City Beach, the barrier island is tucked away on its own isolated oasis. Because it is so far from a major city and has such little light pollution, it has its sights set on earning the Gold Tier Dark Sky Certification, the highest level awarded by the International Dark Sky Association. Getting this designation would list the park among other famous dark sky areas in the association’s database, making it an incredibly desirable camping and stargazing location.

Park Ranger Skip Schipper has spent the past year gathering dozens of light readings with a Sky Quality meter throughout the park and at different times throughout a month. His findings are comparable to already Dark Sky Association certified areas in Arizona. The dark sky is also a reason the island has such a high number of nesting sea turtles. “The night sky is beautiful, but it’s also how newborn sea turtles find their way to the water,” Schipper said.

St. George Island isn’t the only Florida State Park with an amazing night sky. Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park in Okeechobee County also has a Dark Sky certification and has dazzled stargazers and campers with its views of the Milky Way above the prairie. Stargazing is also a popular activity at T.H. Stone Memorial St. Joseph Peninsula State Park in Gulf County and Mike Roess Gold Head Branch State Park in Clay County, as well as other parks throughout the state.

Stargaze at a Florida State Park 



A Focus on our Staff 

Ed Perry taking a photo on Sebastian Inlet Beach

“A few weeks ago me and a couple other rangers noticed a sea turtle crawling up the beach.” Ed Perry excitedly told his story, “It was a Kemp’s ridley sea turtle, one of the most endangered species of sea turtles in the world.” A moment like this would be incredible for a park visitor, but many people would think that after 29 years of working at Sebastian Inlet State park, Ed would have seen it all by now. But even after all this time, in his own words, “those moments are what make this job exciting to come to every day.”

Ed Perry’s journey as a park services specialist has been one full of adventures, surprises and new experiences. “I always loved Sebastian Inlet. Right when I graduated college, I knew that’s where I wanted to be.” Ed spends a lot of time around the Inlet. Even when he’s not working he enjoys fishing and taking incredible wildlife photos. “The inlet just has so much beauty, there’s nothing like the coast. There's no way to describe it, you just have to be there.”

Around the state, hardworking park rangers, managers, biologists and administrators help offer award-winning outdoor recreational entertainment and access to natural and cultural resources. Thank you to all Florida State Park staff.

   Read More About How You Can Volunteer



 Prescribed Fire Restoration

A Prescribed Fire at Torreya State Park 

In 2011, the state of Florida acquired roughly 7,000 acres of property from the St. Joe Company. The acquisition expanded the borders of Torreya State Park and the park’s immensely critical role in restoring one of the most species-rich habitats in North America. The property is made up of rolling hills with deep ravines, creating microhabitats that provide sanctuary for rare species like the Torreya tree, Florida yew, fire-back crayfish and Apalachicola dusky salamander. Over time, the land had been converted to industrial timberland, so park staff has been hard at work returning it to an ecologically functional longleaf pine/wiregrass system.

Recently, park staff conducted a prescribed fire of 350 acres on the property to promote wiregrass flowering. Following the prescribed burn, which will clear out longleaf pine trees that were used for industrial timber, park staff and partners from The Nature Conservancy will begin harvesting seeds from other areas that have already been restored. Park Biologist Mark Ludlow was at the prescribed burn and has been heavily involved in the Torreya restoration projects.  “This is the largest sandhill restoration project in Florida State Park history, and one of the largest upland habitat restoration projects in the U.S.,” Ludlow explained. “We started with over 5,000 acres of timberland and are now officially over 50 percent completed with the restoration.”

Learn More About Prescribed Fire 





Find An Adventure at a Florida State Park! 



Event DetailsWorld Oceans Day Beach Cleanup  

June 8

Bring the family out to Perdido Key State Park to help the Friends of Pensacola State Parks, Inc. and the Perdido Key Association celebrate World Oceans Day by cleaning up the beach.

  Get event details here


Event DetailsSecond Saturday Paddle 

June 9

Take a 90 minute paddle at Hillsborough River State Park and learn about the natural history and communities that make the Hillsborough River unique and important.

  Get event details here


Event DetailsTopsail Talks - Living Bear-Wise 

June 15

Join Topsail Hill Preserve State Park staff and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to  learn about the Florida Black Bear and how to "Live Bear-Wise."  

Get event details here



Event DetailsShelter Dog Pack Walk

June 24

Join Silver Springs State Park Staff in Marion County for a walk with a few well-behaved shelter dogs from Marion County Animal Services. All dogs are available for adoption! 

Get event details here

Event Details Movies and More 2018

June 27

The Friends of Camp Helen State Park and Camp Helen Park staff invite the family to the fifth annual Movies & More series. Come watch “A Bug’s Life” and participate in insect related activities!

Get event details here


The Outsiders Club Season 3 debuts this June, check out the TV schedule here 





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