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Thursday, June 25, 2009

Make a Date with Florida’s State Parks

State parks offer opportunities for original, affordable and eco-friendly dates TALLAHASSEE – Summertime is a perfect occasion to explore the outdoors with family, friends or even a date, and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s (DEP) Florida Park Service is offering a list of inexpensive ways to make a date at a Florida state park. “Not only are parks great for family getaways, but they can also be unique date getaways,” said DEP Florida Park Service Director Mike Bullock. “With 160 state parks in Florida, there are hundreds of opportunities for affordable recreation –from picnicking at a beach to stargazing at night.” DEP’s Rediscover Florida: 100 Ways in 100 Days campaign provides 100 money saving ideas for close-to-home entertainment at a state park, trail or other natural recreation area. The upcoming Fourth of July weekend is an excellent time for family, friends or dates to explore some of the 100 activities on the Rediscover Florida list. Date ideas include: · Picnic in the park. Most of Florida’s 160 state parks offer picnic areas with covered pavilions, picnic tables and BBQ grills. o The Barnacle Historic State Park in Coconut Grove will host an old fashioned picnic over the Fourth of July weekend on the grounds of the 19th century pioneer home site. Hosted by The Barnacle Society, this event will feature lawn games, kite-making and knot-tying demonstrations. The public is invited to join the staff and volunteers by wearing a period costume. This celebration is $5.00 for adults 12 years and over and $2.00 for children ages six to 12. For more information, call (305) 442-6866. · Attend a stargazing party. Several state parks host star gazing events throughout the year. o Silver River State Park located east of Ocala will host a stargazing party with the Ocala Astronomy Club on Saturday, June 27th. Guests should bring a lawn chair or blanket and bug spray is suggested. Event is weather permitting. Regular park admission fees of $4.00 per vehicle with up to eight passengers will apply. For more information, call 352-236-7148. · Experience a Park Festival. Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center State Park hosts First Saturday events on the first Saturday of each month. On Saturday, July 4th, guests can enjoy arts and crafts from 10:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m. and at 7:00 p.m., enjoy songs, stories, music and poetry performed during open stage night held in the park auditorium. Coffee and desserts will be available for sale. This event is free. For more information, call 386-397-2733. · Relive History. At Fort Clinch State Park east of Jacksonville living historians recreate life during the Civil War. Activities include artillery demonstrations, medical demonstrations and soldier drills. Soldiers and civilians also take up duty in the laundry, infirmary, kitchen, barracks, quartermaster and carpenter shop. Candlelight viewings of the fort take place Saturday evenings the first weekend of every month except December. The next event will take place on July 4th and 5th. Regular park admission fees of $5.00 per vehicle with up to eight passengers will apply, plus $2.00 per person Fort admission. For more information, call 904-277-7274. · Take a boat tour. Edward Ball Wakulla Springs State Park south of Tallahassee offers daily guided riverboat tours to provide a closer view of wildlife. Rangers share stories of local folklore and passengers will see prehistoric Mastodon bones on the bottom of the spring basin. For more information, visit www.floridastateparks.org/wakullasprings. · Relax on one of America’s best beaches. Caladesi Island State Park (above), just off the coast of Clearwater was voted America’s Best Beach by Dr. Beach in 2008. The island is accessible only by private boat or via the Caladesi Connection ferry service. Cost for the ferry is $10.00 for adults and $6.00 for children age’s four to 12. Trips depart hourly beginning at 10:00 a.m. Contact the ferry office at 727-734-1501 for more information. For further information about Caladesi Island State Park, call 727-469-5918. · Take a Tour Under the Sea. The first underwater park in the U.S., John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park in Key Largo (southeast) encompasses approximately 70 nautical square miles. While the mangrove swamps and tropical hammocks in the park’s upland areas offer visitors a unique experience, it is the coral reefs and their associated marine life that bring most visitors to the park. Most enjoy the view from a glass bottom boat tour, but visitors can get a closer look by snorkeling through the reefs. Boat tours are available daily at 9:00 a.m., 12:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m. and costs $24.00 for adults and $17.00 for children under 12. For more information, call 305-451-1202. The Rediscover Florida campaign aims to increase awareness of all the activities Florida’s public lands offer – from the traditional activities like hiking, bicycling, picnicking or camping to popular festivals, historic reenactments, museums and education centers. Opportunities extend beyond the state’s 160 state parks – there are also eight state trails, three National Estuarine Research Reserves, plus many aquatic preserves and education centers. With all of these options, opportunities for fun and educational recreation are vast, affordable and close to home. Visitors to the Rediscover Florida Web site can explore an interactive list of 100 activities and track how many of the activities they complete. To view the Web site, visit www.dep.state.fl.us and click Rediscover Florida. 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. Caladesi Island State Park, just off the coast of Pinellas County, was honored with the coveted Best Beach in the Nation award in 2008. To learn more about Florida’s state parks, visit www.floridastateparks.org.

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