Two gems of The Emerald Coast, Henderson Beach State Park in Destin and Fred Gannon Rocky Bayou State Park in Niceville, have long been hidden treasures to folks in this neck of the woods.
Overseeing these parks, among others, is the Friends of the Emerald Coast State Parks Citizens Support Organization.
Finally, after years of hard work, and being nominated in 2011, The Friends have won the prestigious honor of 2012 Outstanding Citizen Support Organization of the Year Award.
This statewide award was given to the Friends of the Emerald Coast State Parks CSO for their "exceptional service and support to both Henderson Beach State Park and Fred Gannon Rocky Bayou State Park."
Accepting the award on March 23 in Wakulla Springs State Park, the CSO told The Log they were honored to win this award.
"There are approximately 100 or so CSOs in the state of Florida," said Daniel Laird, park manager of both Henderson Beach State Park and Fred Gannon Rocky Bayou State Park.
"This is a really special award."
The group of CSO members joke about the actual acceptance day — noting that Wakulla Springs State Park is a beautiful place, but adding that the weather was atrocious the day they accepted the award.
"It rained — really rained," said Susan Kneller, a member of the Friends of the Emerald Coast State Parks board of directors. "It even hailed for a little bit, but it cleared up just long enough for us to accept the award."
Myra Rhodes, past president and current board of director's member, was also awarded Volunteer of the Year in 2012 for the entire state of Florida for her continued work with the Friends of the Emerald Coast State Parks CSO.
The laundry list of duties conducted by the employees and volunteers of the Citizens Support Organization is seemingly never-ending.
The CSO conducts park and beach cleanups, hosts various fundraisers, events and tours and publishes newsletters and magazines about beach safety and animal information.
Through partnerships with organizations such as the Mattie Kelly Arts Foundation, The Heritage Museum of Northwest Florida, The Destin History & Fishing Museum, among others, the Friends of the Emerald Coast State Parks have put years into bettering the community.
For more information about the parks visit FloridaStateParks.org.
Earth Day Beach Clean-Up: Henderson Beach State Park will host an Earth Day beach clean-up Saturday, April 20, from 8 to 10 a.m. Volunteers are needed to remove trash from the beach and park areas of Henderson. The clean-up is being organized by the Okaloosa Environmental Council, and sponsored by the Tourist Development Council and Okaloosa County Commission. T-shirts, snacks and water will be supplied to volunteers while supplies last. Please wear closed-toe shoes, gloves, sunscreen and a hat for sun protection. Call 850-837-7550 for more information. Park fees will be waived for volunteers.