Florida Park Service Volunteers Log 1.4 Million Hours to Help Visitors Enjoy Nature

TALLAHASSEE – The Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s Florida Park Service is pleased to recognize winners of the 2013 Friends of Florida State Parks Volunteer Awards.

The Florida Park Service hosts annual volunteer appreciation picnics in each of the five state park regions to recognize the invaluable contribution of the members of the Florida State Parks volunteer corps, which includes more than 7,766 regular service volunteers. Regular service volunteers are those who regularly commit to working in state parks, from staffing a ranger station, driving a tour boat or supporting land management activities. Last year, volunteers contributed nearly 1.4 million hours to the state park system.

April is National Volunteer Month and celebrates and promotes the spirit of volunteerism throughout the country and raises awareness about how volunteering changes lives and strengthens communities. Volunteerism is personally and professionally rewarding, and offers benefits such as enhanced self-esteem and confidence, new friends and associates, new skills and abilities and enhanced employability.

“Florida’s state parks and trails are fortunate to have the most passionate and dedicated volunteers,” said DEP’s Florida Park Service Director Donald Forgione. “We thank our volunteers for their time and expertise in helping us manage, protect and interpret Florida’s natural and cultural resources.”

During the volunteer appreciation picnics held in March, the Friends of Florida State Parks, Inc. presented its annual awards to individuals and groups whose volunteerism has made a significant impact in the past year. The winners are selected via nomination by the Friends of Florida State Parks Recognition Committee in eight categories. The 2013 winners are:

Adult Female Volunteer of the Year: Jackie DeGayner, Dagny Johnson Key Largo Hammock Botanical State Park

Adult Male Volunteer of the Year: Ted Rodriguez, Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park

Citizen Support Organization of the Year: Friends of Emerald Coast State Parks (Henderson Beach and Fred Gannon Rocky Bayou State Park)

Short Term Project of the Year: Lovers Key Mid-Island Bridge Redecking, Friends of Lovers Key State Park

Long Term Project of the Year: Limitless Playground, Friends of Islands Parks (Honeymoon Island and Caladesi Island State Parks)

Special Event of the Year: National Public Lands Day, Friends of Oscar Scherer State Park

Volunteer Team of the Year: Visitor Center Volunteer Team, Friends of Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park

Youth Female Volunteer of the Year: Jamie Kustra, Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park

Youth Male Volunteer of the Year: Taylor Meadows, Fort Pierce Inlet State Park

Friends of Florida State Parks, Inc. is a nonprofit citizen support organization formed in support of the entire Florida State Park system. The group is recognized as the leading advocate of the Florida Park Service to ensure the existence of the Real Florida for future generations by preserving and protecting state parks; educating residents and visitors about the importance of state parks; creating community support for state parks. The group provides financial support to the state park system which supplements state funding and ensures inclusion of, and accessibility to, the full enjoyment of the parks’ natural and cultural resources for all persons.

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