Tallahassee, FL (January 19, 2021) – A grandmother ushers a group of children to the ramp, excited to board one of the iconic 1960’s era glass bottom boats and share the wonders of Silver Springs. Instead of disembarking full of a new appreciation for nature, the group leaves disappointed. The reason: the boat could not accommodate the grandmother’s wheelchair.
The nonprofit Fish & Wildlife Foundation of Florida (FWFF) is helping the Florida State Parks Foundation (FSPF) avoid this fate for future visitors with a $20,000 grant to help purchase Silver Springs State Park’s first wheelchair accessible glass bottom boat. It will also be equipped with an induction-loop system that assists passengers using hearing aids listen to the captain’s narration. In keeping with the tradition of naming the glass bottom boats after Seminole tribal chiefs, the new boat will be named Chief Potackee after the only female chief of the tribe.
“Thanks to this very generous grant from FWFF, our new wheelchair accessible vessel will allow everyone to enjoy the famous glass bottom boat tours at Silver Springs,” said Julia Gill Woodward, FSPF CEO.
The boat is currently under construction and hopes to launch in early 2021. In addition to the two foundations, a consortium of public and private partners has joined resources to get the boat on the water, including the Felburn Foundation, the Delores Barr Weaver Legacy Fund, the Florida Park Service, Friends of Silver Springs State Park and Cape Leisure. FSPF is still actively seeking funding to complete the project. Donations are welcome at their website.
Funds for the grant came from the FWFF’s Protect Florida Springs license plate, which contains the image of a scuba diver. Twenty-five dollars from each purchased plate supports conservation of Florida’s unique springs.
“We are committed to making nature accessible to all,” said FWFF President and CEO Andrew Walker. “Florida’s springs are unique in the country and around the world. It is a travesty that anyone would be limited from experiencing their natural wonder. With this grant, we’re proud to help right that wrong.”
About the Florida State Parks Foundation
The Florida State Parks Foundation, founded in 1993 as Friends of Florida State Parks and renamed in 2018, is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation whose mission is to support and help sustain the Florida Park Service, its 175 award-winning parks and trails, local groups and more than 20,000 park volunteers. It does this through programs that preserve and protect state parks, educate visitors about the value of state parks, encourage community engagement and active use of state parks, and advocacy. The volunteer board of directors represent private and public sectors as well as local and statewide interests. Learn more at floridastateparksfoundation.org.