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Happy 75th Anniversary to Florida State Parks

by Florida Department of Environmental Protection

The National Archives is celebrating its 75th anniversary in Washington, DC. In Bradford, Pennsylvania they are celebrating the 75th anniversary of the Zippo lighter. Here in Florida, however, is perhaps the most fun 75th anniversary of all – Florida’s 160 award-winning state parks have officially been giving Floridians and visitors from around the world an affordable, educational and non-traditional getaway for three quarters of a century.

Yes, Florida State Parks celebrates its 75th anniversary with a year-long list of special events that are as diverse as those who pass through the gates. From a Snorkeling Tour at Rainbow Springs to an Easter Egg Hunt at Fred Gannon Rocky Bayou ... from Jazz in the Park at the Florida Caverns to the Antique Tractor Show at Stephen Foster ... from a Kid’s Fishathon at Oscar Scherer to a Cystic Fibrosis Walk at Maclay Gardens ... from the most prestigious surfing contest on the east coast at Sebastian Inlet to – well, you get the point. Everyone can find something of interest in Florida’s state parks.

Today, the Department of Environmental Protection oversees the state park system, but it didn’t always. Following the Great Depression, in an effort to help ease the burden of unemployment, the Franklin D. Roosevelt administration initiated the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in 1935. The program helped put unemployed men to work undertaking conservation efforts, including restoring and developing state and federal lands for public recreation. The program’s director wrote a letter to then Florida Governor David Schultz encouraging him to take advantage of the program. By June 1935, four state parks had been created and in 1942, when the CCC stopped operating, 11 parks comprising just over 25,000 acres had been acquired and turned over to the Florida Park Service. Today more than 700,000 acres in submerged and upland acreage make up Florida’s state park system.

In 1935, the Legislature appropriated an annual operating budget of $25,000; today Florida’s state parks contribute an economic impact of just under $1 billion. The first three state parks that were officially opened to the public attracted more than 100,000 visitors; in recent years, annual visitors numbered more than 20 million.

A trip to a Florida State Park can be a journey back into old Florida with a visit to the Koreshan State Historic Site in Estero, or it can be an underwater adventure amidst the beautiful coral reefs at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park in Key Largo. The three day annual Florida Folk Festival in White Springs can bring out the kid in everyone, or get in touch with that competitive side at the mountain bike races at Alafia River State Park – touted as some of the most challenging off-road bike trails in Florida.

Feel like doing some fishing, outdoor camping, canoeing, strolling, tubing or seeing Florida’s wildlife up close? Are you a history buff, a beach bum, a bird watcher or a horseback rider? Do you crave adventure, long for serenity, or marvel in awe at the wonders of nature? It’s easy to find your niche at one of Florida’s 160 state parks. Stay tuned monthly throughout 2010 to learn what special activities are planned for the Florida State Parks’ 75th Anniversary. In the meantime, visit www.FloridaStateParks.org to learn more about Florida’s natural wonders, or follow them on Twitter at www.twitter.com/flstateparks.

Some Events to Look Forward to in 2010 include:
January 2-3 Dade Battle Reenactment at Dade Battlefield Historic State Park
February 12-14 34th Annual Reenactment of the Battle of Olustee
March 13-14 Azalea Festival at Ravine Gardens State Park
March 19-20 Wakulla Wildlife Festival at Wakulla Springs State Park
April 24 Burial of Time Capsule, O'Leno State Park
May Military Appreciation Month
May 28-30 Florida Folk Festival at Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center State Park
July Recreation & Parks Month
September Literacy Month
November 6 25th Annual Civilian Conservation Corps Festival at Highlands Hammock State Park
December 10 50th Anniversary Celebration of John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park