June 18, 2014: Become a Friend of Your State’s Parks

~by Susi Pittman

I’ve been working at one of Florida’s beautiful state parks this summer and have found that our Park Rangers are some of the most hard-working and dedicated people on the planet. Their days begin hours before sunrise and finish up well after sunset. The magnificence of the creation and creatures in their charge is diligently attended to and lovingly shared with the public. They all exude a joy for their surroundings and want the public to share in that joy.

What I have also come to know, is how important a citizen or community support group for each of these parks really is. Friends of the State Parks, or  Citizen Support Organizations are a valuable resource to each and every park in volunteer hours donated as well as financial fund raising to offset park expenses. From boardwalks to lawnmowers, interpretive programs to disability access, these citizen groups are essential to the park service especially due to the economic downturn in the past three years.

Citizen groups like these recognize the intrinsic and important value that these state treasures present to the American people. They exemplify a responsible stewardship to the natural and cultural resources that state parks bring to the people and they work hard to ensure that these sites are operating for future generations to come. Usually the closer to a metropolitan area a park is, the stronger the citizen based assistance.

I work at the Itchetucknee Springs State Park in Florida, and I cannot imagine the loss that the community would feel if this crystal clear, pristine river were lost to pollution and abuse. The state of Florida received this property back in 1972, following years of dumping and pollution. The immense undertaking to return this beautiful spring-fed wonder back to its original state took years and years of hard work and volunteer hours. Today, I have met people from all over the globe, Australia, China, Holland, Great Britain, South Korea, India and many more countries. They all tell me that they come to this river for one reason…its unique beauty and to experience it’s waters. With all the big attractions and big cities that exist in the United States, they come for the beauty of nature. They come for the wilderness and to find respite in the sanctuary of creation.

I would encourage you to research state parks in your area and see if they have a citizens support organization that you could join. You can start by typing into your Google Search Friends of (your states name) Parks, or you can go this LINK at Wikipedia. Either way, you will be able to locate what is available in your area.

If there is not a citizen support group, why not be the one to start one. Contact the Ranger headquarters of the park you wish to assist and set sail on a plan.

As a steward of creation, you are giving back to the Creator the gift of yourself in offering loving dominion over that which He has given you to enjoy.

Start today.

Our parks need YOU now, more than ever!

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Susi Pittman is founder of CatholicStewardsofCreation.com and Owner-President of Twin Oaks Publishing; she is author of Animals in Heaven? Catholics Want to Know!; an advocate for the Florida Catholic Conference; a member of the St. Joseph’s Catholic Council of Women in Jacksonville, Florida; an Associate of the Sisters of St. Joseph, St. Augustine;a member of the Florida Publishers Association, Independent Book Publishers Association, the National Association of Professional Women, the ASPCA, the Humane Society of the United States and the National Audubon society.

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