Wekiva Springs State Park opened in 1970 (when a gallon of gas cost .36 cents and the Beatles released “Let it Be”), adding numerous happy milestones along the way – the addition of campgrounds, a nature center, 13.5 miles of trails, a full concession and grill offering canoe/kayak rentals – and enduring monumental setbacks – numerous storms that toppled hundreds of trees and closed the park for weeks at a time, the ongoing plight of the Florida Panther, and now all state parks closing due to the Corona Virus. The staff has embraced the day to day challenges of welcoming guests into the park while protecting the wild lands and its inhabitants. And the local community has rallied around its local park, feeling the struggles, as well, of cohabitating with a tourist destination for nearly 500,000 annual visitors. Day to day, it’s a mission felt deep down by all of us.
In honor of the park’s fifty -year legacy, the Wekiva Wilderness Trust, (the volunteer 501c non-profit organization that supports the park), is making plans to erect an eight-foot tall Florida Black Bear carving, made from Central Florida cypress, in a prominent place in the park. Along with the bear, the Trust wants to place a carved wooden emblem just in front of the Ranger Station with a Florida Panther in the middle of it, just like the Florida State Parks’ logo. Chain Saw Carver Mark Rice at Chainsaw Designs, whose tree sculptures have been erected in parks and tourist destinations throughout Central Florida, has been hired to do the carvings. You can view his work on facebook: Mark W. Rice.
July 1st marks the first day of the fiftieth anniversary. The $3900.00 needs to be raised by the end of April in order to have the two carvings completed and in place before that day. Donations of any size are welcome and very much appreciated. Individual and Corporate contributions of $500 or more will receive a personalized plaque notating one's participation as a major contributor in the Wekiwa Springs State Park 50th Anniversary - Raise A Bear Campaign.
It's our hope that both the Florida Panther and the Florida Black Bear carvings will stand as reminders that all of us should enjoy and teach the next generation to enjoy the Great Outdoors responsibly.