State Parks: Money Talks!

Here in Florida, we have 160 state parks consisting of more than 700,000 acres. In contrast, Texas boasts "more than 90 state parks." There are various types of parks in Florida such as the underwater parks John Pennekamp Coral Reef State and San Pedro Park; the historical sites such as Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings Historical Park and the Fort Zachary Taylor Historical Park; but most of the parks highlight wonderful natural areas of the "Real Florida" where you can enjoy native plants and animals in their native ecosystems. Our state parks host more than 21 million visitors a year and provide many of the destination sites that bring out-of-state visitors to our state.

Even though Florida's parks provide beautiful and educational experiences and bring in many tourists, Governor Scott threatened to close many of them to "save money" and then some of our politicians were ready to make a deal with Jack Nicklaus to build golf courses in our state parks. We hear that the golf course plan, even though it has been labeled as "The Worst Idea Ever," is still alive and may still end up as an amendment on a bill during this legislative session.

While the closings haven't happened yet, many of the parks are operating with less staff and much smaller budgets. So what can you do? Visit various your local state parks more often, plan and attend field trips to state parks, bring your out-of-state guests to state parks, tour parks in other areas of the state, and you could make some time to volunteer at a park. Many of Florida's state parks could not succeed without the help of volunteers. In 2008, volunteers contributed more than 1.2 million hours.

We've written of various state parks here on this blog: Lignumvitae State Park, Torreya State Park and the seven-day field trip with Bruce Means included several sites including Wakulla Springs State Park. If you have a favorite state park that you would like to write about, please let us know at

Maybe the Blackwater River should be called the Tanwater
River. Tannins from surrounding vegetation color the water.
The white sandbars are unique for Florida rivers.

Now enjoy a short tour of Blackwater River State Park west of Tallahassee in Holt, FL. The Blackwater River is the only Florida river with white sugar sand sandbars. In the park there are several sharp turns in the river where the sand builds up and makes kid-friendly beaches.

The shallow, sandy bottom makes it easy to walk, but the current is
pretty strong and a crawdad may scuttle by.

Outfitters just outside the park rent canoes and tubes.  They will drop you off
at one location and pick you up down river.

State parks can be educational.  Sssshh! Don't tell the kids...
Crossvine (Bignonia capreolata) blooms await
the hummingbirds.
It's an unspoiled acidic forest with hollies, oaks, bald cypress, longleaf pines, and Atlantic white cedar plus lots of wildflowers. In fact, the state champion Atlantic white cedar (Chamaecyparis thyoides) is in the park.

Base of the champion Atlantic white cedar.

A champion tree is measured in several ways: diameter,
height, and spread.

The needles of the Atlantic white cedar are
compressed and look they like those on an
arborvitae, which is in the same family

Some areas in the park have been burned. Here the well-protected buds on the young longleaf pines (Pinus palustris) come out of dormancy.  

A lupine (Lupinus spp) grows on a sandy bank.
The only red-berried greenbrier in Florida:
Smilax walteri

Several pavilions nestled in the forest and overlooking
the river would provide beautiful locations for events.
 Here's a letter to Gov. Scott about state parks from FNPS president, Ann Redmond.

So get out and enjoy a Florida state park real soon!

Ginny Stibolt


daisy g said…
Would it be okay for me to use excerpts from this post on my blog? I wasn't aware of the "golf course" idea and I shudder to think of it. I'd like to educate my readers. TIA
Ginny Stibolt said…
Daisy, You can quote me, but the golf course information is second hand. I don't have definitive knowledge, but what we've heard is that the Jonathan Dickinson State Park just south of Stuart on the east coast is the one that is targeted.

"...this park teems with wildlife in 13 natural communities, including sand pine scrub, pine flatwoods, mangroves, and river swamps. The Loxahatchee River, Florida's first federally designated Wild and Scenic River, runs through the park." So why how could a golf course improve this??
Anonymous said…
Wonderful to see the Blackwater River State Park covered. Audubon has recently deemed it an important birding area.
Angie Kay said…
I just started a blog about Florida Parks. Hannah Park, Little Talbot Island,and Honeymoon Island are a few that are featured Read about it here...

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