Florida boasts 175 award-winning state parks which attract 30 million visitors a year. By comparison, Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom attracts 24 million visitors annually. Florida’s state parks also contribute more than $3 billion a year to the state’s economy. The next session of Academia Hernando will take guests on a scenic tour of Florida State parks and will show them how to make the most out of every beautiful visit.
“Florida State Parks & How to Enjoy Them” will be presented Friday, Oct. 15 at 10 am at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, 2301 Deltona Blvd., Spring Hill. This session will be presented by Don Philpott who is a full-time writer and volunteer. He has more than 250 books published on a wide range of subjects, and in 2009 he wrote the Guide to The Wekiva Basin State Parks (reprinted in 2013), with all profits going to the park. He has written more than 5,000 articles in newspapers and magazines. In 2005, he was selected as Florida State Parks Volunteer of the Year for services to the park service. He is President of the Wekiva Wilderness Trust, the park’s Citizen Support Organization, and a member of the Friends of the Wekiva River, the National Audubon Society, and the National Association for Interpretation.
In the UK, he was a member of the Conservation Corps and Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and for many years volunteered as a relief ranger and guide at Minsmere Bird Reserve, where many of Europe’s rarest species breed. He is President of Friends of Florida State Parks, a Florida Master Naturalist (FMN), and an instructor with the University of Florida’s FMN program teaching classes in Seminole County. He is also a Florida Master Gardener and a Certified Interpretive Guide.
“The first part of the presentation will paint an overview of Florida’s state parks; Going over what they have to offer, how to best enjoy them, and their economic impact. The presentation will also cover the origins of the Florida park service and the diversity of the parks – from its world-class beaches to its many freshwater springs, from historic homes to battleground sites, and from mermaids to buffaloes. It will explore all the activities that state parks have to offer and how to best enjoy them. It will also discuss the special role that state parks played and continue to play in the COVID crisis. This part of the presentation will conclude with a scenic look at many of the state’s most popular parks,” read a session description found on Academia Hernando’s website.
The talk also will discuss the mission and importance of these landmark parks. “The second part of the presentation will focus on the core missions of the Florida State Parks and the Florida State Parks Foundation. These include protecting and preserving them, increasing accessibility for all, encouraging greater use by more diverse groups, and working to expand the number of parks to ensure that sites of special interest are protected for future generations,” read the session description. This part of the presentation will conclude with some examples of the wide-ranging projects being undertaken within the parks. This will include details about the Serenity Garden at Wekiwa Springs State Park, a park within a park for the disabled, and the only one of its kind anywhere in the United States.
When he’s not writing, Philpott is volunteering at Wekiwa Springs State Park, where he helps run the nature center and interpretive programs, both within the park and as part of the outreach program. He also teaches “Edible Florida” and “Basic Survival” courses throughout Florida. “I will be talking about Florida’s award-winning 175 state parks, the best in the nation, and their enormous diversity. They are not just treasures that need to be fully enjoyed and protected, they are important for Florida’s economy, having an economic impact of almost $3 billion a year, creating thousands of local jobs, and attracting 28 million visitors a year. I will also be talking about volunteer opportunities as the park service relies on an army of more than 11,000 volunteers working with park staff to make sure the visitor gets a never-to-be-forgotten experience,” Philpott said.
Sharon Printz, a board member of Academia Hernando, says that Philpott is a wonderful speaker and a wonderful resource on the subject of Florida parks. “He presents beautiful photos of the state parks and their wildlife,” she said.
Drawing its origins more than a decade ago from the popular “Mondays in Brooksville” program, Academia Hernando is returning in grand fashion for the Fall 2021 season, as sponsored by The Hernando Sun, Kenjo’s Tree Service, and The Residence at Timber Pines. Academica Hernando is a not-for-profit lifelong learning organization that provides quality instruction and learning experiences for adult students throughout Hernando County and beyond. “Our goal is to inform, educate and inspire adult learners through a series of weekly lectures on a wide variety of topics,” read an Academia Hernando mission statement.
An academic subscription to Academia Hernando costs $70 and includes all eight lectures and a mystery bus trip excursion. Tickets to individual lectures are $10. For more information, visit www.academiahernando.org or call (352) 515-0300 or (352) 686-4035.