PROVIDED BY THE BARRIER ISLAND PARKS SOCIETY – Nearly 30 years ago, a group of concerned island residents set out to rescue the Port Boca Grande Lighthouse at the south end of the island from decades of neglect and the effects of an eroding beach. By working together, the historic lighthouse was restored and the legacy of their citizen support lives on today as the Barrier Islands Parks Society (BIPS).
The new plan includes important strategic and operational goals for BIPS for the next three years. It also includes an updated vision to guide their work: “A future where every generation is dedicated to preserving the splendor of nature and relevance of history.”
According to Sharon McKenzie, executive director of BIPS, “The new 2017-2020 plan has six primary goals and will include an annual operational plan each year to track the progress in achieving our vision.”
The plan includes many new educational efforts that build on the success of their Wading Adventures, a program entering its ninth year. The program is designed to have trained leaders teach students and visitors about how estuary water pollution is caused and the importance of protecting the aquatic environment and its inhabitants. It will be expanded under the new plan. According to Krista Potthast-Haynes, BIPS vice president, “We will launch a new program this winter partnering with Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium and the Florida Park Service to create an in-depth, science-based wading program with the objective of underlining the intricate relationship between mankind and our local environment.”
BIPS recently launched a “Beach Ambassadors” program designed to teach participants about the fragile ecosystem of our beaches and how to protect them better.
BIPS will be expanding the popular Gasparilla Island Lighthouse climb program from one to two dates per month during the season. Just make a reservation to climb to the top and enjoy the view of the island. The fees go to help maintain the lighthouse and its 7.4 acres of beachfront property.
And there are many opportunities to volunteer and lend your talents to the plan. You can be a docent at the museum, a tour guide at the park, a grants writer, a museum ambassador, a beach ambassador, a light keeper, a maintenance worker or even a photographer.
You can find the full BIPS strategic plan as well as a detailed calendar of events, volunteer opportunities and how you can become a member on their website at barrierislandparkssociety.org
BIPS is a nonprofit organization as well as a citizen support organization (CSO) for the Florida Park Service. BIPS is funded totally by contributions from its members and partners. John Rice, president of BIPS, commented, “Our story has its foundation in the tremendous generosity and support of our committed members and supporters, whose dedicated financial support and countless volunteer hours over so many years have been essential to our success. We look forward to continuing that partnership to steward our natural, cultural and historical inheritance for generations to come. Together, we are really making a difference.”