Parks Enrich Our Lives BY Eric Draper
My son grew up with family camping trips to Torreya State Park in northwestern Florida. The perfect day for him included swimming, hiking and dinners around the campfire. His love of nature is still with him into adulthood, and we continue to bond over outdoor adventures.
Florida is recognized as a state that values recreation. At a Florida State Park, we can explore urban green ways, beautiful springs and wild places.
State parks and other public outdoor spaces bring us together to walk, bike and enjoy natural landscapes. People smile and say hello to each other. Children make new friends and explore nature. Research has shown that simple activities like walking in a park can have a remarkable therapeutic effect, both mentally and physically.
Parks also serve as anchors for Florida’s communities. I went to the reopening of Dr. Julian
G. Bruce St. George Island State Park after Hurricane Michael, and I saw how much the park means to area residents.
Our award-winning state park system attracts visitors from all over the world and strengthens local economies. Florida’s outdoor recreation industry supports more than 1 million jobs and had a $145 billion economic impact last year.
My son often talks about how important it is to him to get his partner’s teenage sons outside and away from their digital devices. He knows that every moment in the woods or on the water deepens his bonds with his new family.
It’s easy to make valuable memories with your children or grandchildren in the outdoors. You can find a state park near you at FloridaStateParks.org.
Eric Draper is the director of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s Florida Park Service, which manages 175 state parks and trails and helps plan for the future of Florida’s outdoor recreation. This article was featured in the Florida State Parks newsletter, the Real FloridaSM Connection.
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