Florida National Park Sites Receive More than $500k in Donations to ‘Enhance Visitor Experience’

by Amy Myers
Photo by: Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Following the devastation that Hurricane Ian caused Florida’s national parks and sites, the state’s nonprofit education partner, the Florida National Parks Association (FNPA), has given a sizeable donation to improve visitor experience. Biscayne, Everglades and Dry Tortugas National Parks and Cypress National Forest will all benefit from the $527,225 donation.

During the catastrophic storm, Dry Tortugas and Big Cypress sustained direct hits, and officials had to close the park sites completely until they could fully assess the damage. Meanwhile, Biscayne and Everglades only partially reopened at the end of September. Thanks to the recent donation, though, these sites are able to resume and accomplish crucial projects and activities.

“We are grateful for the philanthropic support of our partners. Their investment helps us enhance the park experience for visitors and achieve a margin of excellence we could not on our own,” Superintendent Pedro Ramos, who has oversight for the four NPS sites in South Florida, said in a statement.

According to the NPS, the donation from the FNPA will directly support Junior Ranger programs, volunteer appreciation activities, outreach events, staff training and visitor orientation. Additionally, these funds will provide supplies for volunteer-led education programs at Big Cypress, seasonal park rangers at Biscayne, campground and visitor center operations at Dry Tortugas and renovations of the Guy Bradley Visitor Center in Flamingo at Everglades.

“The board of directors is thrilled to award these donations and we look forward to continuing to grow our partnership and support of the National Park Service,” said FNPA Chairman of the Board John Lynn. “In our 71-year history as a cooperating association, this is the most substantial gift to the NPS we have made to date.”

FNPA Plays Vital Role in Upkeep of National Parks in Florida and Across Country

Since the creation of the FNPA in 1951, the association has given over $4.8 million to the National Park Service.

“The Florida National Parks Association is dedicated to helping the NPS provide enriching visitor experiences in South Florida’s national parks,” said FNPA Chief Executive Officer Jim Sutton. “Proceeds from FNPA operations, like park bookstores and FNPA-led interpretive programs, put visitor-spent dollars back into the park to continue to improve the visitor experience.”

Along with providing the necessary funding, organizations like the FNPA are critical to the management of national park stores all across the country.

“Through NPS-approved educational products, programs and events, they help people understand and connect with the meanings and themes of national parks,” the Park Service explained.

Within these four NPS sites, the philanthropic partner manages eight park stores, which sell interpretive and educational materials, like books, maps and postcards, for park visitors. These materials help inform visitors of the park’s ecosystems and history. In all, the FNPA ensures that tourists get the most out of their experience in Florida’s wildest regions.