Despite a federal government shutdown, Florida’s 171 award-winning state parks, greenways and trails are open for business, offering Floridians and visitors the opportunity to enjoy the state’s natural, cultural and historic resources.
The state park system has been recognized as one of the best in the country, and with good reason. A shining example is close to home at Highlands Hammock State Park near Sebring, the very first of Florida’s state parks and the catalyst for the preservation of unique land and monuments in our state.
If you haven’t been to Highlands Hammock State Park, you simply don’t know the treasure in our own backyard. If you haven’t been for a while, we encourage you to revisit a piece of paradise.
A pristine hammock, miles of walking trails, a paved loop road that traverses the park, playgrounds, picnic areas, camping, the Civilian Conservation Corps museum ... the list goes on and on.
A tram tour is a treat for new visitors and park residents alike. The tram is currently not running on South Canal due to extremely high water from heavy rains but the narrated tour is still educational and an adventure in itself. Regularly scheduled tram tours are at 1 p.m. Tuesday through Fridays and at 1 and 2:30 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays.
If that weren’t enough, the Friends of Highlands Hammock host a “Music In The Park” series monthly from October through May. The first performance of this season will come Saturday, Oct. 19 when the Longshot band rocks the park. Groovus will perform Nov. 16, Lotela Gold will be on stage Jan. 18, Feb. 22 will feature the California Toe Jam Band, Rick Arnold will be in the spotlight April 19, and Quasimojo will perform May 17.
Campers can choose between the comforts of electricity, water and organized activities at the main campground, or they can opt for primitive camping in another area of the park. Adventurous park-goers can follow elevated catwalks deep into the swamp where they have a good chance of seeing an assortment of wildlife including, perhaps, alligators.
Throughout October, Florida’s state parks will celebrate Florida Greenways and Trails Month with a focus on hiking, bicycling, horseback riding and canoeing and kayaking activities. Park rangers and volunteers will host special events and are taking advantage of Florida’s slightly cooler temperatures.
While national parks are being shut down because of instability in Washington, Florida’s parks, greenways and trails are available for all to enjoy.
The park system offers technology to help plan your outings. Visit the website www.FloridaStateParks.org or download the Florida State Parks Pocket Ranger app, available on iTunes and Android Market by searching “Official Florida State Parks” and is identified under ParksByNature Network. It is also available on PocketRanger.com.
Get out and enjoy the treasures that are our state parks. You won’t be sorry.