Friday, September 11, 2009

Free admission to Florida parks this weekend

Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park

Florida's 160 state parks are open free through Sunday to anyone with a library card, a library book or gently-used family book that they can donate.

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection is offering the free entrance to celebrate September as "State Park Literary Month." DEP officials are encouraging people to combine reading with the beauty of the outdoors at a state park.

"Because reading and literacy is so vital to Florida's future, it should not just be confined to the classroom," DEP Secretary Michael Sole said in a news release. "With one of the most beautiful landscapes in the world, I can think of no better place to read a good book than at one of Florida's 160 state parks."

The free admission is an added benefit this year because park entrance fees were increased from $5 to $8 at many of Florida's most popular state parks. The increases, estimated to raise $7.2 million annually, were proposed by DEP and approved in May by the Legislature.

Despite the fee hike, park attendance statewide increased in July increased by nearly 100,000 compared to last year -- from 2,296,515 to 2,395,831, according to DEP.

Click on image to view maps of Florida state parks

Learn more about Florida's state parks, go on the Web to
The Florida Parks Service recently launched a Twitter page at

(Photo courtesy of the Florida Park Service. Story copyrighted by Bruce Ritchie and

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