Trust provides support for Florida parks

Most people think that national parks are completely dependent on federal funding.

Little do they know that the government only provides budget monies for basic operations of the parks and that there are so many more costs that are not covered.

To keep the parks program running smoothly, a little outside help is needed.

The result is a national network of organizations that form a major support system for the nation’s nearly 400 parks and other preserved and protected areas.

This is where the South Florida National Parks Trust enters the picture.

Click on the video at right to view an audio slideshow about the South Florida National Parks Trust prepared by writer Sasha Blaney.

The trust is an organization that has been around since 2002 and became fully independent in 2008.

The South Florida National Parks Trust, SFNPT for short, focuses on promoting philanthropy and local involvement. It is the primary fundraising contributor to South Florida’s three national parks and preserve.

SFNPT chose to focus its efforts in five specific areas:

  • environmental education
  • resource protection
  • visitor services
  • volunteer activities
  • community outreach

Clearly its efforts have paid off; since being established, the SFNPT has completed numerous projects for a combined investment of more than $3 million.

“We want to create an opportunity to learn,” said Executive Director Don Finefrock, “and to connect people to the parks.”

Biscayne National Park, as seen from a kayak out on the bay (Photos by Sasha Blaney).

Bob DeGross, chief of Interpretation and Public Affairs at Big Cypress National Preserve, said the preserve is a testament to the educational programs that SFNPT has supported.

“SFNPT helps fund the educational programs and make sure that they are well staffed programs,” said DeGross, “Having partners is instrumental and imperative for national parks to make a connection with communities, they help provide a way to have local people involved rather than just visit.”

Finefrock has been with SFNPT for seven years after making a career change after 20 years of being a journalist.

“The board took a chance on me, but I had strong passion for the parks. I loved them and I used them,” said Finefrock, who was a reporter for The Miami Herald for 10 years. “I also had skills in the communication field and a lot of contacts in the area.”

Finefrock mentioned that it was a steep learning curve, but that he has learned a lot. He noted that a lot of SFNPT’s success was not just from him, but also from the strength of the board members and supportive parks superintendents.

Biscayne National Park has many mangroves that surround the tiny islands within the park.

Gary Bremen, a Biscayne National Park spokesperson and interpretive ranger who has worked with Finefrock, listed a number of projects that they have successfully collaborated on including the “National Park Service Birthday Party” and the Community Artist Program.

“The ‘National Park Service Birthday Party’ event we have is for kids. The Community Artist Program is where SFNPT helps to secure grant money for printing, postage, food for receptions and supplies needed to make art exhibits happen. SFNPT also supports the salaries of rangers who work in the park’s environmental education program,” Bremen explained.

“These are just a few of the projects that I am personally aware of, but can honestly say that without the trust, many visitor services and programs would be nonexistent,” said Bremen.

At left, one of the many boardwalk paths through the Everglades. This one, at Royal Palm, is one of the most- visited sites in the park. Below, Everglades National Park offers wide views of sawgrass.

SFNPT makes it a point to partner with all four parks in the region. The group takes pride in the way that they are able to help each park and not just focus on one. When rangers are sent to reach out to the community on behalf of SFNPT, they speak for all four parks and are expected to represent each of them equally.

Finefrock understands that South Florida is very urban and he hopes to educate the community about the parks so a connection can be made.

His current student intern is a clear product of the impact SFNPT can have. University of Miami public relations major Stephanie Beyl spoke about the organizations education programs and how it is motivating to see students learn about the environment at such a young age.

“These parks need to be protected now so they can be here for the next generation,” said Beyl. “It is necessary to keep these unique parks around.”

To learn more about any of Florida’s national parks or about SFNPT please visit their website below. SFNPT also puts out a seasonal newsletter with stories about their projects. You can receive the newsletter by signing up for it on

South Florida National Parks Trust

SFNPT can be located at:
1390 S. Dixie Hwy., #2203
Coral Gables, Fla. 33146

SFNPT can be reached by:

Some events that the organization participates in:

Biscayne National Park:

  •     Education Program
  •     Volunteer Program
  •     Biscayne BioBlitz event

Everglades National Park

  • Education Program
  • Lichen Project
  • Nike Missile Base tours

Big Cypress National Preserve

  • Education Program
  • March for Parks Event

Dry Tortugas National Park

  • Key West Visitor Center
  • Curriculum Guide

Other Projects:

  • Wayside Exhibits in Everglades National Park
  • Underwater Marine Heritage Trail
  • Saving the Civil War era cannons at Fort Jefferson
  • Underwater Camera at Shark Valley
  • Sea Turtle Protection Program
  • Recruiting Volunteers
  • Wildlife Viewing Scopes at Flamingo
  • Junior Ranger Program

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