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Thursday, May 29, 2014

Military history buff? Don't miss the Top 7 destination Florida state parks

If you're a military history buff and your rig points its nose at Florida, here's a list of the Seven Best Forts in Florida State Parks. You'll be able to walk through areas where famous battles and wars took place and learn about some rich history.

Sir Mildred Pierce on flickr.com
1. Fort Clinch State Park: Named for General Duncan Lamont Clinch, a prominent figure of the Second Seminole War, construction of Fort Clinch began in 1847. Fort Clinch is one of the most well-preserved 19th century forts in the country. No battles were ever fought at the fort, although it was garrisoned during both the Civil and Spanish-American wars.

2. Fort Cooper State Park: In 1836, the First Georgia Battalion of Volunteers built a stockade for the soldiers resting along the banks of Lake Holathlikaha. The Volunteers were forced to hold their own against the Seminole Indians through several skirmishes. The park is named in honor of Major Mark Anthony Cooper, commander of 380 First Georgia Battalion Volunteers.

3. Fort Foster Historic State Site: Fort Foster is part of Hillsborough River State Park and is a fort reconstructed from the Second Seminole War. The interpretive center of the park has more than 100 artifacts on display that were found at the Fort Foster Historic Site and offer an insight on both sides of the conflict between the Seminole nation and the U.S. military.

4. Fort Mose Historic State Park: Fort Mose is the site of the first legally sanctioned free African settlement in what is now the United States. In 1738, the Spanish governor of Florida chartered the settlement of Gracia Real de Santa Teresa de Mose, or Fort Mose, as a settlement for those fleeing slavery from the English colonies in the Carolinas. Although there are no remains of the earth and wooden structures, visitors can still view the land where the settlement once stood.

5. Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park: Florida’s southernmost state park was designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1973 and is popular for its recreation, as well as U.S. military history. The fort was one of a series built in the mid-1800s to defend the nation’s southeastern coastline. Fort Zachary Taylor played important roles in the Civil War and Spanish-American War.

6. Paynes Creek Historic State Park: During the 1840s, tensions between settlers and the Seminole Indians prompted authorities to establish a trading post in Florida’s interior, away from settlements. In late 1849, after the post was attacked and destroyed by renegade Indians, Fort Chokonikla was built as the first outpost in a chain of forts established to control the Seminoles.

7. San Marcos de Apalache Historic State Park: The history of this National Landmark dates back to 1528 when Panfilo de Narvaez arrived in the area with 300 men. However, the first fort was not built until 1679. Andrew Jackson occupied the fort during the early 1800s. The final confrontation at San Marcos occurred in 1861 when the Confederates took the fort, renaming it Fort Ward. Pottery and tools unearthed near the original fort are displayed in the museum.

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Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Ten "don't miss" Florida parks, both public and private

Planning your own journey of exploration to Florida? Your name doesn't have to be Juan Ponce de León to enjoy the wonders of this amazing state. And while you may not find the fountain of youth, your travels may put some youthful vigor in your step.

Kevin Mims of visitflorida.com recently published a list of 10 "must see" parks in the Sunshine State, and the story was picked up by theledger.com. Here's Kevin's list:

Florida Caverns
Florida Caverns State Park, Marianna. Cave tours, hiking, biking, and horsebacking around. Not to mention kayaking or a wee bit of golf. Click here to visit.

Topsail Hill Preserve State Park, Santa Rosa Beach. Plenty of RV-friendly sites with a tram ride to a spectacular beach. Hiking trails, dune lakes unlike few others in the world. Go there.

Anastasia State Park, St. Augustine. A quick trip away to downtown Saint Augestine, or hang out in the park. Here's a link.

Phils 1stPix on flickr.com
Fort Pickens Campground, Pensacola. A military historical buff's dream, but plenty of other great things like hiking or beach hanging. Go now.

St. George Island State Park. Ranked as the third best beach in the entire country, Dr. Beach is a great hang out. Lots of water activities and sunshine. Here's a link.

Juniper Springs
Juniper Springs National Recreation Area, Ocala. Bring kayak or canoe, seven miles of paddling to be had. "Crystal clear freshwater spring," says Kevin. Click here to go.

Disney's Fort Wilderness Resort, Orlando. Break the mold, yes, there really is something attractive in a "commercial" RV park. Quick trip to Walt's place, and see the fireworks from the campground. Jump to the Fort here.

Fort De Soto Park, St. Petersburg. Walk, bike, paddle your kayak. Wildlife watching, beach strolling. Throw in a little history too. Go there now.

Lion Country Safari KOA, Loxahatchee. Next door to the Safari, you may hear a big cat roar when you park in a big old RV spot, and "the campground is located about halfway between West Palm Beach and the eastern shore of Lake Okeechobee. Here's a link.

Mwanner at en.wikipedia
Bahia Honda State Park, Florida Keys. Reservations are hard to get here – one of the biggest camping draws to be had. Reserve as early as you can, here, or at any other Keys location. Click to jump.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Florida county reacts to FMCA demands: "It's just too much money."

When the regional wing of the Family Motor Coach Association (FMCA) pulled its annual gatherings out of Brooksville, Florida after 16 years, it left county officials smarting, and wondering if there was any way to bring the lucrative motorhome conventions back. Now it looks like the "demands" of the FMCA group are just too costly for the county to bear.

In a story carried by Hernando Today, information about what the group asked the county for in order to keep the conventions there is staggering from a financial standpoint. After having to put up tents for the annual meetings, Jim Duncan, Southeast Area Motor Coach Association president told county officials the RV club just couldn't do with it any more – they needed permanent structures. Responding to the call, Wayne Dukes said for the County Commission, "We don't have that kind of money." Dukes is the commission chairman.

County bean counters did a preliminary estimate of just how much the county would have to shell out to meet the demands of the FMCA and the calculator must have made a gagging sound when the final figure was cranked out: Seven to eight million dollars – in addition to three million more for the requisite buildings. Still, the full commission will take the matter into consideration at a future meeting.

In addition to the buildings, ready to seat two to three thousand people, the FMCA says it needs at least 1,000 RV sites, 25 by 50 feet, all equipped with electricity, and at least half with full hookups. According to Hernando Today, FMCA's Duncan wrote the commission, "If you were able to provide the above, not only would FMCA grace your area but many others as well."

In addition to putting up buildings and providing the other items needed  to keep the motorcoach group happy, the county would likely have to rezone the property and change the airport's master plan. The airport is where the group has met for its conventions these years past.

As far as the preliminary view of those on the commission who spoke to the media, it doesn't sound too promising. "It's a lot of money," said Jim Adkins, a commission member. "It's too much money."