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A Message From Eric Draper
The Florida Park Service has a wonderful tradition of storytelling through music and cultural and historical interpretation, which is something I am proud to be a part of and have had the opportunity to experience firsthand.
Recently, while others waited for Tropical Storm Alberto’s drenching Memorial Day rains, I enjoyed great music at the Florida Folk Festival in White Springs. I’ve attended the festival before, but this time as state parks director I was part of recognizing some of the volunteers and sponsors who make the event such an amazing experience for guests and artists alike.
Now 66 years young, the Florida Folk Festival is thought to be the nation’s longest-running annual musical event. The festival’s setting is the Stephen Foster Folk Center State Park. It is one of many state parks that provide protection and enjoyment of nature as well as cultural experiences. The stories told at the festival have grown and become more diverse. I saw Dale Crider sing with such passion about places I love. It made me even more determined to do everything I can to preserve Florida’s natural and cultural resources.
One thing that I was especially excited to see at the Florida Folk Festival is similar to what can be witnessed daily in our state parks — a genuine sense of community and joy from sharing places and experiences. People make our parks and create community within our parks.
By coming together to engage, learn and teach others about our shared culture and history, people transform parks into something more than the land itself. Music is a great tool for exploring and interpreting our relationship with the environment and our past.
Year-round music programs connect visitors with our natural and cultural heritage. Florida’s stories are told through lyrics and melodies at events like the Gamble Jams at Gamble Rodgers Memorial State Recreation Area at Flagler Beach; the drum circles celebrating the yearly solstices and equinoxes at Savannas Preserve State Park; and the Caribbean summer concert series at Anastasia State Park.
Florida State Parks are more than landscapes and natural environments. They are home to Florida’s heritage and history and the art, crafts, music and food that grew out of it. Storytelling reminds us of people and experiences that connect us together and to Florida.
This is the Real Florida℠ — and you can find it in Florida State Parks.
Learn more about Florida State Parks
Cooperating to Clean up the Coast
(Norwegian Cruise Line volunteers stand with bags of trash collected during their regular cleanup)
Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park is cleaner thanks to the efforts of volunteers, park rangers and staff.
With support from 4Ocean, Expedition South Kayaks, Winn-Dixie and Norwegian Cruise Line, staff and volunteers recently removed hundreds of pounds of litter and debris from the beaches, trails, natural preserves and other park areas.
Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park, located on Key Biscayne near Miami, sees close to 1 million visitors a year. Unfortunately, some visitors leave litter in park. The coastal park also has debris deposited on its shores by currents, tides and winds. Some of the debris collected recently was from last year’s Hurricane Irma.
On June 30, 110 volunteers suited up to clear out debris throughout the park, from the trails and beaches to the thickets and wetlands. The cleanup event sponsored by 4Ocean — a company dedicated to getting plastic out of the world’s seas — removed over 500 pounds of trash from the park. Expedition South Kayaks and Winn-Dixie also supported the cleanup event.
“It is important to properly dispose of trash to prevent it from reaching our waterways and being spread further out to sea. It becomes a hazard to wildlife and people,” Assistant Park Manager Lu Dodson said.
The park and the park’s community support organization Friends of Cape Coral work hard to promote park cleanup events. In early July, a group from Norwegian Cruise Line collected 167 pounds of trash from the park as part of their commitment to have regular cleanup events at the park. On July 14, individual volunteers and groups from Aetna, Bullet Line and Florida International University collected 228 pounds of trash. Volunteer Coordinator Jorge Brito makes special efforts to involve local businesses and volunteer groups in park cleanups.
“Together we can keep our beaches and parks free of trash. That is a good thing for everyone who lives here and visits Florida,” Dodson said.
The park has a regular cleanup day on the second Saturday of every month. Visitors and volunteers are encouraged to participate.
Get involved at a Florida State Park
(Florida Park Service technician Adam Neuse shows park staff how to use a mobile app to survey sea turtle nests)
There is an app for everything, even tracking sea turtle nests thanks to the Florida Park Service.
Every day at sunset, John D. MacArthur Beach State Park Ranger Valerie Caruso scours the length of the beach looking for sea turtle nests. She notes each nest depression and turtle track to report to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and Palm Beach County. For years, this task took hours of painstaking data entry. Now, thanks to a new app, transmitting the day’s survey takes only minutes.
Florida Park Service (FPS) geographic information system technicians Andrew Williams and Adam Neuse worked with park rangers and biologists to develop an app that streamlines the monitoring and protection of sea turtle nesting sites on both the Gulf and Atlantic coasts. The mobile app allows nest surveyors to mark the precise location, species and status of each nest and easily upload each entry into a database.
“It takes one minute where it used to take one hour,” said Neuse, who estimated data entry use to take MacArthur Beach staff about 200 hours per season.
The app doesn’t just make the survey process more convenient. It allows park staff and resource managers to visualize the patterns and concentrations of nests and to chart changes or threats to nesting sea turtles over time.
At MacArthur Beach, nesting sites are analyzed in different sectors. If a sector near a condominium begins to show a decline in successful nesting, it could indicate that street lights are disorienting sea turtles at night or that a predator is in the area. With the data, park staff can better protect the nests and sea turtles.
Staff and volunteers at MacArthur Beach have thoroughly integrated the turtle survey app into their overall conservation plan, and 17 other parks are in varying stages of implementation. Ultimately, FPS wants to utilize this tool throughout the parks and in collaboration with other state environmental agencies. The Fish and Wildlife Commission has started to use the app as well.
“This is very much a collaborative enterprise,” Neuse said.
Neuse says his team will continue to find solutions to resource management problems, whether that be collecting data on the locations of endangered Torreya trees to information about the depth of canals in Key Largo’s coastal wetlands.
Technological advances — along with the dedication and hard work of staff, volunteers and community supporters — allow FPS to accomplish its mission to protect, interpret and preserve Florida’s unique environmental heritage.
Learn more about John D. MacArthur Beach State Park