Attendance at Florida state parks increased for the second straight year in fiscal year 2011-12 following a decrease three years ago.
The number of visitors to the 160 state parks increased by 3.4%, from 20.4 million in 2010-11 to 21.1 million this past fiscal year, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) said Thursday (Aug. 9).
A DEP spokeswoman said the increase could be because of many factors including the affordability of parks, good weather in 2011 with no major tropical storms, and work with tourism partners including Visit Florida, the Florida Current reported.
“From coast to coast, the Florida Park Service offers nature-based recreation and environmental resource protection at its best,” DEP Secretary Herschel T. Vinyard Jr. said in a news release.
The statewide record for park attendance was set in 2008-09 with 21.4 million visitors.
The 3.7% increase this year and a 1.6% increase in 2010-11 followed a 6% decline in 2009-10.
The decline followed park admission fee increases ranging from 40 percent to 60 percent in 2009. The park system collected more revenue in 2009-10 — $52.7 million compared to $43.6 million in 2008-09.
State Park officials said in 2010 they didn’t know why attendance had declined but they pointed out that the record cold winter also coincided with decreased attendance at popular beach state parks in South Florida.
Honeymoon Island State Park in Dunedin was the most popular state park in 2011-12 for the sixth year in a row with 1,089,588 visitors. Rounding out the top five were Gasparilla Island State Park in Boca Grande, St. Andrews State Park in Panama City Beach, Lovers Key State Park in Fort Myers Beach and John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park in Key Largo.
The Florida RV Trade Association (FRVTA) will be holding its 32nd Annual State Convention Sept. 6-9 at the Hyatt Coconut Point Resort, located just south of Ft. Myers. According to a press release, the theme for the convention is “The RV Mardi Gras…Let The Good Times Roll!” that will feature a “Voodoo Lounge” hospitality room.
Scheduled events during the convention include:
• Sept. 7: A general session kicks off in the morning with an all-industry panel that includes Mark Beecher from Bank of the West; a representative from GE Capital; Don Emahiser from Crossroads/Redwood RV; Bobby Cornwell from the Florida Association of RVs and Campgrounds (FARVC); a representative from NTP Distribution; Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association (RVDA) President Phil Ingrassia; and Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) President Richard Coon. In addition, FRVTA Education Director Jim Carr and General Council Marc Dunbar will offer an update on the RV training program and the recent legislative session.
• Sept. 8: Morning break-out sessions will provide detailed information to attendees in smaller, more intimate class-room settings. Sheril Vergarra will present selling through social media; Allen Monello will cover dealer compliance issues; Jim will go more in depth with his training session; Scott Stropkai from Statistical Surveys Inc. will take a look at the industry numbers; NTP Distribution will show how to make parts departments more profitable; and Kim McCorvey from the Department of Revenue will cover issues from the State of Florida.
Other activities will include the “Big Easy” Golf Tourney and the “Crawfish” Outing on Friday afternoon and a “Masquerade Ball” Costume/Dinner Party that evening. Saturday’s lunch will again feature “Doubloon Dave” and his “Jazz It Up” Game Show. The convention wraps up that evening with the “Fat Tuesday” Awards Banquet and Silent Auction.
FRVTA said it still has a few sponsorship opportunities and is still taking prize donations for the silent auction and the game show luncheon. For more information or to make a donation, contact FRVTA at (813) 741-0488.