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Florida’s State Park attendance Reaches new heights

July 24, 2009

-More than 21.4 million people visited Florida’s state parks last year-

florida-state-park1TALLAHASSEE — The Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s (DEP) Florida Park Service today announced a new record for state park attendance during the 2008-09 fiscal year. More than 21.4 million people visited a state park last fiscal year, an increase of approximately 700,000 people, or 3.5 percent, from the previous fiscal year.

“We are pleased to see Florida’s 160 state parks continue to grow in popularity and are thankful for the support of Governor Crist and the Florida Legislature that has enabled us to keep all parks open and fully operational despite difficult economic times,” said DEP’s Deputy Secretary for Land and Recreation Bob Ballard. “These record setting visitor numbers illustrate the demand for recreational and educational experiences that are affordable, close to home and protective of Florida’s valuable natural resources.”

Honeymoon Island State Park in Dunedin welcomed more visitors than any other state park in Florida for the second year in a row, with more than 1.2 million visitors.  Other highly visited parks include

  • St. Andrews State Park, Panama City Beach — 910,000 visitors.
  • Bll Baggs Cape Florida State Park, Key Biscayne — 909,000 visitors.
  • Gasparilla Island State Park, Boca Grande — 846,000 visitors.
  • Sebastian Inlet State Park, Melbourne Beach — 796,000 visitors.

“This is the third year in a row that attendance has increased at Florida’s state parks,” said DEP’s Florida Park Service Director Mike Bullock. “The growth in visitor numbers proves that residents and visitors alike value state parks and enjoy nature-based recreation.”

The Florida Park Service, established by the Florida Legislature in 1935, will celebrate its 75th anniversary in 2010. Special events will be hosted statewide beginning in January and throughout 2010 to commemorate the diamond anniversary.

Since 1985, the National Recreation and Park Association has designated July as Parks and Recreation Month. This year, the Florida Park Service continues its Family. Friends. Fun. campaign which aims to reconnect children and families with nature by engaging them in outdoor activity. Florida’s state parks provide many opportunities for friends and families to explore museums, forts, gardens, lakes, rivers, crystal clear springs and white sandy beaches. Visitors can hike, bicycle, paddle, dive fish, swim, ride horseback and view an abundance of wildlife; and more than 50 parks provide overnight accommodations via tent camping, RV camping or cabin rentals.

The first two-time Gold Medal winner honoring the nation’s best state park service, Florida’s state park system is one of the largest in the country with 160 parks, most of which are open 365 days a year. Florida’s state parks, which span more than 700,000 acres and include more than 100 miles of sandy white beach, provide an affordable outing for people of all ages.

To learn more about Florida’s state parks, visit www.floridastateparks.org.

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