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By Eric Draper
Florida State Parks Director 

Florida State Parks: The Real Florida Connection


Last updated 1/10/2021 at 11:36am

Eric Draper, Florida State Parks Director

One of the joys of being Director of Florida State Parks is getting to know the many places within parks where visitors can learn about our state's remarkable natural and cultural history. Florida's historic and cultural landmarks are diverse and worthy of our interest, and protecting and restoring the sites that tell stories of our past help bring people together

At this year's Park Ranger Academy, living history reenactors in period dress showed how interpretive programs bring Florida's history to life - a cracker cowboy discussed cattle drives, soldiers from Fort Clinch State Park fired one of the fort's replica Civil War cannons and actors gave Florida's famous writer Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings' story special meaning.

Many of our parks protect ancient history reflected in the shell mounds where pre-European peoples built thriving coastal colonies. In 1948, Sarasota residents Karl and Madira Bickel learned that a ceremonial mound was slated for development. They rallied to protect the mound, which was designated as Florida's first state archaeological site. Many other mounds are managed as part of Florida State Parks.

The Bickels cared about Florida's rich history, and we should too. Florida seems a place of newcomers. Yet beneath the soil and water and in the swamps and woods can be found the evidence of deep seas and even the ice age. Mastodon bones, hunting points, sunken ships and turpentine pots all lie beneath our feet. From the continent's first explorers to the Space Race, Florida has a long and interesting history.

I am proud that staff and volunteers of Florida State Parks, along with partners like the Florida Public Archaeology Network and the Florida Division of Historical Resources, work to keep Florida's history alive. Preserving, restoring and interpreting Florida's natural and cultural resources is what makes Florida State Parks so special. By interpreting our cultural legacies, we can help you find a connection with Florida's history.

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