Camping is a fun activity that can strengthen family bonds and provide opportunities for experiencing nature’s nocturnal activity in the wilderness.
Campers at Blue Spring State Park are treated to the magical sight of thousands of fireflies as they light-up the spring run for several weeks in April. Overnight guests at Lake Louisa State Park gather round the group fire ring after sunset and listen to rangers tell stories or give interesting facts about the park and its inhabitants. Florida cowboy living history demonstrations in an 1870’s cow camp are a treat for campers at Lake Kissimmee State Park. Campers at Hontoon Island State Park arrive by ferry to spend the night on a primitive island on the St. John’s river.
Currently, only about one-third of the 160 state parks in Florida offer family camping. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s Division of Recreation and Parks (DEP) would like to increase the number of campsites by adding facilities to 56 parks identified as having the potential to support them. Orlando area parks being considered for the addition of new family camping areas are Blue Spring State Park, Rock Springs Run State Reserve, Lower Wekiva River Preserve State Park, and DeLeon Springs State Park.
The DEP defines family camping areas as those designed to accommodate a variety of camping equipment such as self-contained recreational vehicles, pop-up campers and tents. These campgrounds typically include:
- Paved or stabilized roads
- Stabilized camping pads
- Bathhouses and/or restrooms
- Picnic tables and grills
- Water and electrical connections
- Interpretive facilities
Private entities will be contracted to design, construct and operate the proposed campgrounds. The DEP intends to retain full control over all aspects of the planning, design, construction and operation of the proposed campgrounds to safeguard the mission and quality standards established by the state park system.
The incentive for creating more family campgrounds in the state parks is to provide increased benefits to the public, enhance economic benefits of state parks, create jobs and to increase the ability of the state park system to be economically self-sufficient. The DEP cited the $15.5 million revenue the state parks exceeded from hosting more than two million visitors in their family campgrounds during 2009-2010.
If this request is approved there may be more places to pitch a tent or back in a camper in the near future. For now, why not visit one of the Orlando area state parks currently offering family camping for an overnight adventure? For more information about Florida’s State Parks visit their website. To read more about the proposal see the agenda for the June 10, 2011 Acquisition and Restoration Council Meeting.