Florida is blessed with one of the most extensive state park systems in the country. And, despite the presence of a criminal presently residing in the Governor’s mansion, it’s state parks are among the best managed nationally.
On moving to Florida in March 2008 I discovered that just like the National Park Service system, the Florida state parks system maintains a passport stamp program. Each state park has a stamp unique to it and if you slog your way through all of the parks in the system (currently 152 of them) and obtain a stamp for each one, you receive a complimentary front license place from the parks agency
Not all parks are able to maintain an active onsite staff (another of Governor Rick Scott’s many accomplishments) however passport stamps for those parks can be obtained at larger nearby parks. For instance, the stamp for unmanned Cedar Key Scrub Preserve is obtained at nearby Cedar Key Museum.
The first state park I visited in Florida was Collier-Seminole in Collier County. There I purchased my first passport stamp book and after traveling around the state for a year I finished obtaining stamps for all of the parks at Big Lagoon State Park in Escambia County Not satisfied to leave it there, I purchased another passport stamp book and completed the second round of visits at Fort Zachary Taylor in Key West – at the exact opposite end of the state from Big Lagoon.
Not many people have completed one circuit of the state park system let alone two times. That day at Fort Zach I purchased a third passport stamp book and in June 2011 finished filling it out at Torreya State Park in the Panhandle. Currently I am working on a fourth round of visits to each state park. When that’s completed I’ll do it a fifth time.
Because you can obtain stamps for the unmanned parks without actually visiting them, I decided during my third round of visits that I would go one step further in obtaining documentation of my visits.
This time around I began photographing the entrance sign for each of them. Doing so turned into a challenge because places like unmanned Mound Key Archeological Site and St. Lucie Inlet Preserve require a boat ride or a kayak paddle to physically visit the site and obtain a photo. Likewise, Yellow Bluff Fort in Jacksonville doesn’t actually have an entrance sign – just a plaque on a slab of concrete announcing the presence of the park.
Not long ago I had obtained photographs for all but two of Florida’s 152 actively managed state parks (there are 14 others that do not have a passport stamp or public access or both).
The two missing photos were for Egmont Key State Preserve at the mouth of Tampa Bay and Anclote Key State Park offshore from Tarpon Springs. I attempted to get a picture of Anclote in February 2012 but the ferry system used put me on South Anclote Bar where there were no signs.
On July 28, 2012 I took the ferry from Fort De Soto Park in Pinellas County over to Egmont Key. I had last been on this island in the mid-1990s when I accompanied the National Wildlife Refuge manager there.
All of Egmont is a National Wildlife Refuge but part of it is managed as a state park through a cooperative agreement. On this trip I wanted to visit the state managed area to see and photograph the sign.
That was accomplished easily on a brilliantly hot and bright July weekend afternoon.
Leaving Egmont Key for the mainland I was one park short of my goal – a picture of Anclote Key’s sign.
Before making the 90 minute drive to Tarpon Springs where I planned to hire a boat for half a day to run out to the main island, I called Anclote Key to confirm the presence and location of a sign.
Imagine my surprise when I was informed that there is no sign for Anclote Key!
Thus when I took the picture of the Egmont Key sign I had completed my quest and now have a photograph for all the actively managed parks that possess a sign (although the signs for Terra Ceia and Cockroach Bay are marginal in their acceptance as a park entrance sign).
To commemorate this accomplishment I am going to post my picture of each of the State Park signs.
With the picture comes a small blurb about the park – something unique or some experience I have had there in each of my visits. I am going to begin with the Northwest Region (Panhandle) and work my way through the rest of the state in four subsequent posts.NORTHWEST REGION