Tuesday December 21, 2004 - 12:00 PM
Central Florida - Wekiwa Springs State Park, Rock Springs State Reserve, Lower Wekiwa River Preserve
Central Florida - Wekiwa Springs State Park, Rock Springs State Reserve, Lower Wekiwa River Preserve
Central Florida - Wekiwa Springs State Park, Rock Springs State Reserve, Lower Wekiwa River Preserve
Central Florida - Wekiwa Springs State Park, Rock Springs State Reserve, Lower Wekiwa River Preserve
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Central Florida - Wekiwa Springs State Park, Rock Springs State Reserve, Lower Wekiwa River Preserve
Central Florida - Wekiwa Springs State Park, Rock Springs State Reserve, Lower Wekiwa River Preserve
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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 state level.

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.


MISSION OF CITIZEN SUPPORT ORGANIZATIONS
CSOs are a valuable source of volunteers. The membership can help on special work projects. They can provide guides and docents in exhibit and interpretive areas and conduct tours or special programs. The volunteers in the organization can develop and promote special events to focus attention on the park and its special character.
CSOs can provide for special educational needs. Through outreach programs, the CSO can provide educational activities, newsletters, pamphlets, booklets and other informational material. It can help state park managers communicate a park's specific management needs and plans to the community. Special exhibits and other interpretive programs can be developed in cooperation with park staff. These could supplement those already in the park or be used where they are needed, but have not been implemented.
A CSO can raise funds, seek and receive grants, accept gifts and bequests of money, as well as tangible property and real property. These funds can provide additional equipment, buildings, programs and renovation according to the needs and plans for the individual park. They can also finance the activities of the CSO, including sponsorship of special exhibits, programs and publications about that park or its resources.

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Wekiva Wilderness Trust, Inc.
1800 Wekiwa Circle | Apopka, Florida  32712
Phone: 407.263.8030  - Fax: 407.772.8779
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