SUBMITTED BY THE BARRIER ISLAND PARKS SOCIETY- For more than 30 years Barrier Island Parks Society, BIPS, has been on a mission to inspire the exploration and preservation of our natural and historic treasures in the local communities of Charlotte, Lee and Sarasota Counties. Many know BIPS as the 501c3 non-profit responsible for preserving, maintaining and managing beloved historic landmarks including Port Boca Grande Lighthouse & Museum, Gasparilla Island Lighthouse and Amory Memorial Chapel on Gasparilla Island, Boca Grande.
But BIPS is so much more!
What many are surprised to learn is that BIPS was founded as the official state Citizen Support Organization, CSO, for four barrier island Florida State Parks in 1989. While most state CSOs only support one state park, BIPS has been supporting Cayo Costa Island, Don Pedro Island and Land Base, Gasparilla Island and Stump Pass Beach State Parks in our tri-county area for over 30 years.
BIPS makes a positive community impact of approximately $3 million dollars to our local economy and inspires preservation through education to over 30,000 visitors each year at Port Boca Grande Lighthouse & Museum and Gasparilla Island Lighthouse Tours.
How does BIPS do it? BIPS is community strong with the support of our friends, members, donors, sponsors, and over 180 adult and youth volunteers who donate approximately 4,000 hours annually. And our community volunteers help BIPS provide educational opportunities, for example, the Beach Ambassador Volunteer Program helps communities learn more about beach habitats and wildlife and ways to protect them. The Light Keeper Volunteer Program helps communities learn the amazing history and importance of preserving the Port Boca Grande Lighthouse and Gasparilla Island Lighthouse. BIPS also established two all-volunteer friends divisions, Friends of Cayo Costa and Friends of Stump Pass, to directly help Cayo Costa Island State Park and Stump Pass Beach State Park through funding, educational programs, much needed equipment and projects, including a bird stewardship program and an adopt a turtle program.
Collaborating with local non-profits to help local communities is also something BIPS is proud of, including collaboration with the Englewood Chamber of Commerce in the creation of their new Eye on Nature Educational Program. BIPS also hosts the annual Englewood Earth Day Festival each year, a local tradition that highlights over 40 local non-profits and vendors. Mote Marine Laboratory, Florida State Parks, Suncoast Humane Society, Cedar Point Environmental Center, Lemon Bay Conservancy, Florida Native Plants, Venice Audubon, Englewood Chamber of Commerce, Peace River Wildlife, Coastal & Heartland National Estuary Partnership, Planet Englewood, Englewood Sailing Association, Englewood Home Grown and Gopher Tortoise Council are just a few of the local non-profits who share their missions every year at the Englewood Earth Day Festival.
BIPS inspires community stewardship through exciting explorations, including BIPS’ Wading Adventures and Wading Adventures Undercover, a more scientific edition of outdoor learning, in partnership with Mote Marine Laboratory. These adventures help people locally and from all over the world learn through experiencing the intricate relationship we have with our local environment, and how human activities directly impact wildlife and habitats. Calusa: The Lost Tribe Program makes learning history fun and helps communities learn about the Calusa Indian Nation that lived in the Charlotte Harbor area over 500 years ago, including what they ate and how they created survival tools out of natural resources. The Great Seashell Hunt is a favorite each April as kids from surrounding communities gather and learn about barrier island seashells, then the hunt is on to find them on the lighthouse beach in exchange for fun prizes. Sea Turtles Everywhere is another very popular community program that raises awareness and fosters stewardship of the amazing sea turtles that nest on local beaches every year. Guests learn about the behaviors, environment, diet and ways to keep them safe for future generations.
Why is BIPS so passionate about inspiring communities to preserve and protect our natural and historic treasures for future generations? Because BIPS is founded on the strength of like-minded citizens who support vital causes, achieve amazing things, and know how important it is to work together to protect the things we don’t want to lose. Like many, BIPS has closed our historic structures, the gift shops whose retail supported them and canceled our programs and events to keep our communities safe. Even as BIPS is financially devastated and struggling to continue without needed funds, we know that when communities pull together we will shine like a lighthouse beacon through the storm because we’re all in this together and we will overcome, because BIPS is community strong.
Learn more about BIPS, our local state parks & historic structures at
barrierislandparkssociety.org or 964-0060.