By Eric Draper
Director, Florida State Parks
On behalf of Florida State Parks, our hearts go out to everyone affected by Hurricane Michael. I know many in the Panhandle are still assessing the immense damage, but the recovery process has begun in communities and state parks throughout northwest Florida. In some parts, it will be a long journey.
Florida State Parks is focused on the health and safety of our visitors, volunteers and staff, and that is why some state parks remain closed throughout northwest Florida. However, park staff and volunteers are working every day to clean up fallen trees, remove debris and repair structural damage to make parks safe to open. Visitors can check individual park statuses on our website at the Florida State Parks Storm Updates page, which is updated as new information becomes available. The goal is to return some normalcy to the communities who utilize the parks for recreation, relaxation and respite.
Many members of our staff in the Panhandle have been impacted by the storm and have lost their homes and other possessions. However, many are still actively working at their state parks to restore the places we all love.
Immediately following the storm, we received questions from community members, wanting to know how to support the state parks and park staff who were impacted. The outpouring of support has been moving. If you’re interested in assisting, here is how you can make a difference:
- Donate: Support the Florida Park Service Ranger Association, who have provided funds for affected staff. The Florida State Parks Foundation and the specific park “Friends” groups are providing funds to aid in recovery.
- Volunteer: Parks will need volunteers to assist in cleanup efforts when they can be safely accessed. I encourage you to complete a Florida State Parks volunteer application or visit Volunteer Florida to learn other ways you can help the community.
- Visit: Show your support for the parks by visiting one of the more than 160 parks that are open. These include some parks in the Panhandle like Edward Ball Wakulla Springs, Camp Helen and Ponce de Leon Springs state parks. The parks provide a place to relax, escape and experience the Real Florida.
If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out and contact our information line at 850-245-2157.