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85 state parks across Florida are adding water bottle refilling stations

More than 100 bottle refilling stations are being installed at parks across the state, including five along the Withlacoochee State Trail.
Sharon Arroyo, with Duke Energy Florida, fills a water bottle at a refill station at Honeymoon Island State Park Tuesday in Dunedin. More than 120 water bottle refill stations have been installed in 85 state parks across Florida. Duke Energy Florida made a $175,000 donation for the stations.
Sharon Arroyo, with Duke Energy Florida, fills a water bottle at a refill station at Honeymoon Island State Park Tuesday in Dunedin. More than 120 water bottle refill stations have been installed in 85 state parks across Florida. Duke Energy Florida made a $175,000 donation for the stations. [ CHRIS URSO | Times ]
Published Dec. 6, 2022|Updated Dec. 6, 2022

Chuck Hatcher held his black aluminum water bottle under the shiny new refill station on Honeymoon Island.

As the water began to pour, a digital “Bottles Saved” counter ticked up, from 434 to 435. That’s one less single-use plastic bottle in a Florida state park.

A grin crossed Hatcher’s face as he capped his now-full canteen.

“This will reduce the single-use plastics in our landfills, and it will reduce the litter in our parks,” said Hatcher, director of Florida State Parks. “These will provide an opportunity for visitors to expand their stewardship of our state parks and the environment.”

A bottle is filled with water at a refilling station after a news conference at Honeymoon Island State Park Tuesday in Dunedin. More than 120 water bottle refilling stations have been installed in 85 state parks across Florida.
A bottle is filled with water at a refilling station after a news conference at Honeymoon Island State Park Tuesday in Dunedin. More than 120 water bottle refilling stations have been installed in 85 state parks across Florida. [ CHRIS URSO | Times ]

This particular water bottle refilling station, attached to a quaint pavilion in the picnic area of Honeymoon Island in Pinellas County, is one of 121 new additions across 85 of Florida’s busiest state parks, from the Panhandle to the Florida Keys. The new stations are a joint effort between the Florida State Parks Foundation and Duke Energy Florida to encourage sustainable practices for park visitors while also curbing plastic litter on beaches, campgrounds and trails across the state.

All told, the water bottle refilling stations cost about $200,000 to buy and install, according to Tammy Gustafson, president of the Florida State Parks Foundation. State parks used a $175,000 grant from Duke Energy and $25,000 from the foundation’s specialty license plate sales to purchase the refilling stations, which were then installed statewide over the past six weeks.

“Fostering understanding among visitors about their role as stewards of our resources is vital so that together, we can ensure our natural treasures are around for generations to come,” Gustafson said during a news conference Tuesday morning at Honeymoon Island.

A group walks along a path at Honeymoon Island State Park Tuesday in Dunedin. Across Florida, 121 water bottle refilling stations have been installed in 85 state parks.
A group walks along a path at Honeymoon Island State Park Tuesday in Dunedin. Across Florida, 121 water bottle refilling stations have been installed in 85 state parks. [ CHRIS URSO | Times ]

More than 32 million people — larger than the population of Florida itself — visited one of the state’s 175 parks between July 2021 and June of this year, Hatcher said.

“As visitation numbers increase, so does the need for awareness and action on our environmental impact,” Gustafson said. “These water bottle refilling stations help visitors make effective conservation choices.”

The Withlacoochee State Trail, a 46-mile paved path that weaves through Pasco, Hernando and Citrus counties, now has five new water bottle refilling stations for hikers or cyclists who need some hydration, according to Tim Linafelt, a Florida State Parks Foundation spokesperson.

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Tampa Bay-area parks that received new water bottle refilling stations include Alafia River State Park, Hillsborough River State Park, Caladesi Island State Park and Little Manatee River State Park, among others, according to a list provided by Linafelt. Fakahatchee Strand Preserve in Southwest Florida, Florida’s largest state park, also received new water bottle refilling stations.

Last year, roughly 18,000 state park volunteers contributed a combined 1.1 million service hours at parks across the state, much of which was spent picking up litter, Hatcher said. With the new water bottle stations, the hope is that there are fewer plastic bottles littering public outdoor spaces.

“We want to redirect those people from picking up litter to do more valuable things in our state parks,” Hatcher said. “We want them to focus more of their time on operating visitor centers and programming and less time on picking up litter.”