The Florida Park Service won its third National Gold Medal for Excellence from the National Recreation and Park Association this October. Florida became the only state to win three gold medals for excellence, an award given every two years.
“The medal speaks to how we manage our state parks because it’s about the people who are managing and reaching out to the community,” said Donald Forgione, director of the Florida Park Service. “Last year we had over 27,000 volunteers.”
In addition to the thousands of volunteers, 19,104 jobs are supported as a result of the state park system operations.
In the 2012-2013 fiscal year, Florida state parks produced $1.2 billion in economic impact, which is the amount of new dollars spent in local economies by park operations and non-local park visitors.
The Florida Park Service uses a money generation model designed for and used by the National Park Service to assess economic impact in the area around a park.
“We study economic impact because it’s very important to Florida’s economy,” Forgione said. “Florida state parks are a big business.”
The parks hosted a record 25.2 million visitors in the 2012-2013 fiscal year. The Florida Park Service attributes the high attendance to the active lifestyles of Floridians and responding to customer feedback.
Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park’s attendance increased by more than 100,000 visitors in the 2012-2013 fiscal year.
“That park itself produced almost $300,000 in revenue and had a direct economic impact benefit to the community of over $12 million,” Forgione said.
Florida’s state parks attract visitors from around the world with their diverse offering of more than 161 parks, 10 state trails, 800,000 acres of land and 100 miles of beaches.
“State parks and trails have inspired residents and visitors for more than 78 years,” Forgione said.