DEP Secretary Vinyard Celebrates Florida State Parks System’s Third Gold Medal

Secretary Vinyard, along with Director Forgione and Lake Louisa State Park rangers with the state's third gold medal.

Secretary Vinyard, along with Director Forgione and Lake Louisa State Park rangers with the state’s third gold medal.

Florida DEP Secretary Herschel T. Vinyard Jr. joined Florida Park Service Director Donald Forgione to celebrate Florida State Parks’ third National Gold Medal Award for Excellence in the management of state park systems today at Lake Louisa State Park.

“The fact that the Florida Park Service has won this prestigious national award three times, while no other state has ever won twice shows the dedication of our employees and volunteers to manage the resources that provide vast opportunities for Floridians and visitors to enjoy our natural resources,” said Secretary Vinyard. “More than 25 million people visit these award-winning state parks each year, and we are proud to continue to show how special Florida is to all those who visit.”

Secretary Vinyard, Representative Bryan Nelson and Florida Parks Director Donald Forgione spoke to nearly 50 people, including school children, Clermont leadership, parks friends groups and visitors about the importance of Florida State Parks to the community and congratulated park staff for their continuous hard work.

“State Parks are a great way for families to connect with the outdoors,” said Representative Nelson. “We always loved our state parks, we just never knew how great they really are.”

The award was presented last week during the National Recreation and Park Association’s Annual Congress and Exposition in Houston. The Association, in partnership with the American Academy for Park and Recreation Administration, presents the award to communities that demonstrate excellence in long-range planning, resource management and administrating a complex system of state parks. Governor Rick Scott and the Florida Cabinet recognized the Florida Park Service last week at their meeting.

“I am honored that Florida State Parks is the winner of our third National Gold Medal,” said Florida Park Service Director Donald Forgione. “Our staff members, citizen support organizations, volunteers and concessionaires work hard every day to welcome visitors to enjoy our natural and cultural resources.”

Since 1935, Florida’s Park Service have been working to provide recreational activities for the community, while preserving, protecting, interpreting and restoring natural resources in the area.

During the 2012-2013 fiscal year, parks experienced a record-breaking number of visitors. During this time period, 25,575,794 people visited parks. This resulted in a 592,615 increase from the previous year. Increasing access to these state parks has been one of Secretary Vinyard’s top priorities.

This achievement makes Florida the only system in the nation to win a third Gold Medal award. In fact, no other system has ever won two Gold Medal awards and systems are not allowed to apply for the award within five years of receiving a Gold Medal. Considerations for this award were based on the agency’s ability to address needs of those it serves through collective energies of citizens, staff and elected officials.

 For more information on the Gold Medal Awards, visit www.nrpa.org/awards or www.aapra.org.

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