Most, if not all, Florida state parks have
program and physical needs which go beyond the state's ability to provide funding. Some
will lack much needed visitors' centers, others need equipment and others need
supplemental staffing. A nonprofit organization dedicated to generating additional support
for a given park can be an important resource. The idea of establishing non-profit
organizations to support parks is not new and has been effective both on the national and
Support groups have become extremely important at the
national level. The National Park Service formed the Yosemite Natural History Association
in the 1920s. During the 1970s the National Park Service began to emphasize the use of
volunteers. It provided volunteer management training and staff support to the field. The
National Forest Service also makes extensive use of volunteers and cooperating
associations to support wildlife refuges.
Many states are getting involved in the development of
citizen support groups or cooperating associations. A recent survey conducted by the
National Association of State Park Directors indicates that 21 states have statewide
support groups and 43 states have at least one support group for a specific park. By far
the most well developed state program is in California, where they began setting up
support groups in 1972.
By 1988, these groups numbered 83 and had raised $3,712,797.
In 1986, the Florida Legislature authorized the establishment of citizen support
organizations for individual state parks in Florida. The concept was modeled on the
cooperating associations of the National Park Service and California state parks. Under
this statute, any Florida state park may organize a nonprofit group to aid the park
manager in the development of additional resources.
These groups support their parks with time and/or money.
During 1998-99, these groups raised over $1,500,000 in funds to support projects in the
parks. With the advent of new legislation which created the Partnership in Parks Program,
CSOs have raised or committed to raise over $1.8 million which will be matched to $1.3
million to support major capital and resource management projects.