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Budget includes millions to buy land above cave to protect Wakulla Springs from gas station

 (Click here to read Tallahassee Democrat Article)

Message From the President (Julie Harrington)

The following letter serves both as a recap of the Friends of Wakulla Springs State
Park activities during 2023 and a forward glimpse into the upcoming new year

These last 12 months the Friends have been diligently working in front of, and behind, the scenes relating to Wakulla Springs protection, support and improvement efforts for the Park. I’ll begin with the most significant news update concerning the jungle river boats, as they play a pivotal role in the immediate lifeblood and success of the Park. Next, the letter will cover the Friends chronological primary-focused activities that have occurred this last year, with a look ahead to 2024!


This report analyzes long-term trends in the abundance of 24 species surveyed by park staff and volunteers from September 1992 through May 2021. Trend graphs and statistical analyses are included for each of the 24 species, as well as discussions of other factors that may explain the observed trends. The report also analyses trends for three shorter time periods defined by significant perturbations to the upper Wakulla River ecosystem: (1) invasion of the exotic hydrilla spurred by excess nitrogen in the spring (1992-2000), (2) the hydrilla management period (2000-2012) when mechanical harvesting and herbicides were aggressively used to combat the invasive exotic plant, and (3) the post-hydrilla management period (2012-2021) following the cessation of herbicide treatment in 2013.

CLICK HERE for PDF Document

Wakulla Springs Recognized in Southern Living

Link to Online Article HERE

Thank you for a phenomenal January tour!

January–2022, Climate Up Close held 5 events and talked with hundreds of people in the Florida panhandle.



Presentation by Casey Mckinlay, Director of the Woodville Karst Plains Project provided on 01/05/2022 concerning the Chip's hole cave system that connects to the Wakulla cave system located on the corner of SR 267 and HW 319. This location has proposed development. 


Friends hosted event for Florida State Parks Foundation on November 4th

Photographs by Gerald Brown of Sopchoppy


There was also an inspirational Women’s History Month presentation in the Spring by former Park Manager Sandy Cook, on the early years of the Park Service, and including the significant ways that women have contributed to the development of the state parks over time. One can view her presentation by clicking on the Women's History Month logo immediately below. In addition, we are planning to have a few other speakers this Fall and next Spring…oriented primarily to historical and futuristic archeology and cave exploration and diving. Please stay tuned for upcoming details.

We distributed a volunteer survey in June to the Friends membership and contacts which resulted in not only a high response rate, but also in valuable feedback. We are truly grateful and appreciative that you all took the time to not only respond to the survey, but to consider volunteering your time to the Friends and the Park. We have a terrific new volunteer coordinator, Karen Taylor, who is serving as liaison between the Friends and Park volunteering efforts. She presented the results of the survey which in summary reveal: of the respondents, 50% are either occasional or frequent volunteers to the Friends, and 32% are either occasional or frequent attendees at Friends events. Eighteen percent prefer assisting through donations and/or volunteering  in other ways.

It was good to see that at least 91% are interested or very interested in volunteering with the Friends. While the volunteering areas are listed on our website, the top areas of interest for volunteering include: Events (57%), Water Sampling Program and assisting with Writing (both tied at 30%), Communication & Marketing and assisting with the Online Store (both tied at 23%), and help fundraising for the Capital Campaign (16%). Of existing volunteering efforts: Quarterly Road Cleanups (62%), River Boat Guide and assisting with Landscaping (both tied at 36%) and the Life Program (33%), topped the list. Please know that we’ll be reaching out to you to gauge your level of interest in the various volunteering areas (based on your responses) over the ensuing months.

A request was made over this summer by Dr. John Bowden, at the University of Florida (Dpt of Physiological Sciences & Veterinary Sciences), for the Friends to assist in a regional water sampling program. The purpose of the water sampling effort was to test for Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) which are found in a variety of sources, including equipment typically used to collect soil, groundwater, surface water, sediment, and drinking water samples. Board member Cal Jamison provided a Saturday training session at the Park, with about ten volunteers, and everyone was outfitted with water sampling equipment. In July and August, we collected water samples from at least 34 sampling sites (with a few additional bonus sites including wells), and sent them to Dr. Bowden’s laboratory for further water quality analyses. We appreciate that Terri and Sophie (from the Friends of Lake Jackson) also assisted as some of the sampling sites included the Lake Jackson drainage basin. Dr. Bowden will have his website up and running in October, and we hope to have the sampling results by then as well.

In addition, over this summer, there was a proposed plan discussed with FDEP staff, Park Manager Amy Conyers and the Friends Board to turn over the existing boat operations to the current Park concessionaire’s (Guest Services International) at the Park. During this deliberative process, the Park staff, Friends, and the Wakulla Springs Alliance voiced their concerns (and opposition) with this proposed plan (and proposed draft concession agreement) moving forward. The Florida State Parks director, Eric Draper, conveyed that it’s important that everyone is in consensus (or at least supportive) in order for the proposed plan to be implemented, and this was not the case. This proposed plan has currently been backburnered, however, the Friends will continue to remain watchful over these next months.

In early September, the Friends received a generous donation of $7,500 from Val and Dave LaHart distributed through the Community Foundation of North Florida. We are so thankful for this kind support from the LaHart’s, and plan to use it judiciously on behalf of educational programming at the Park!

(Check Out Photos from the Party HERE!)

On September 11th, the Friends and the Park held a joint event: CD release party for Park Ranger Collin Johnson and “Swift Night Out”. Everyone listened outside to a wonderful presentation on swifts by Jeff Hugo and Patty Wilbur, as we watched with eager anticipation for the swifts to arrive. Jeff and Patty sang the traditional song of the swifts as a means to encourage their “swift” presence, but likely due to it being an overcast evening, it resulted in only a handful of the deft acrobats diving into the Lodge chimneys this year. They have appeared in droves (numbering in the 600”s) in prior years, and will hopefully return in similar numbers again.

Relating to the CD event, Collin grew up within earshot of Nashville and has been playing music since he was 12 years old. In 2016, he and his wife moved to Wakulla county one day before Hurricane Hermine hit! After landing his dream job working at the Park, he began writing songs dedicated to capturing the essence of Wakulla Springs. The CD is a compilation of 12 original songs, all recorded by Rick Ott of the “From the Heart” studio in Sopchoppy. Collin performed all the instrumentals (e.g., guitar, drums, etc.) and had some vocal assistance by songbirds (and Park Ranger colleagues) Kat and Maria.

All donations received from the sale of the CD will be directed towards support for the Park; including boat restoration, trail and other landscaping improvements, among many other areas. It’s exciting because Collin’s CD is also the first product offered for sale on the Friends online store with pricing for members and non-members. Please order the CD online (which will also be mailed out to you) at: www.wakullasprings.org/Online-Store

You can also listen/stream :

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC-B2JoosiBe2iwRQxEpWU4w

HearNow.com (for links to various sites including Spotify, Apple, Amazon, among others).

The CD is also available for sale on Amazon: https://music.amazon.in/albums/B09BXMHGMD?marketplaceId=A21TJRUUN4KGV&musicTerritory=IN

As a Member of the Friends of Wakulla Springs, you hold a special place in our organization. Your support to the Friends of Wakulla Springs is the backbone of our association and helps us to crystalize our plans into solutions to continue to serve the needs of Wakulla Springs State Park.

Our hope for this upcoming year is to obtain clearance from FDEP for the Friends to embark on a Capital Campaign to benefit the Park. In addition, we hope to schedule more live events once again including our Annual Classic Car & Motorcycle Show, Sinkhole de Mayo, and 5K events. Other exciting park projects are on the horizon, so please stay tuned for details.…

Thank you again for your continued support of Wakulla Springs State Park. We truly appreciate you! Please let me know if you have any comments and/or questions, and look forward to seeing or speaking with you soon!

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Conserving the world's largest and deepest freshwater spring

© The Friends of Wakulla Springs State Park • 465 Wakulla Park Drive • Wakulla Springs, FL 32327

Phone: (850) 561–7286 • Email: friends@wakullasprings.org

 A 501(c)3 organization  whose mission is to conserve, protect, restore and enhance the natural, historical, cultural and recreational resources of Wakulla Springs State Park for present and future generations.

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