With descendants of T.H. Stone in attendance, the Board of County Commissioners on Tuesday officially proclaimed the golden age of the peninsula state park named to honor Stone.

 

With descendants of T.H. Stone in attendance, the Board of County Commissioners on Tuesday officially proclaimed the golden age of the peninsula state park named to honor Stone.

Commissioners unanimously approved a proclamation setting in motion a series of events over the coming months to honor T.H. Stone Memorial St. Joseph Peninsula State Park.

Those events include free park admission on Sept. 6, the official birthday of the park, christened Sept. 6, 1967, as well as a history presentation from park rangers on Sept. 2.

The events continue in conjunction with International Coastal Cleanup Sept. 16 (see story on B1), National Public Lands Day Sept. 30 and will culminate in “Park Appreciation Day” on Nov. 5.

“Over the course of 50 years the park has welcomed millions of visitors and had a tremendous economic impact on the local economy,” said Mark Knapke, the current park manager.

Visitors from around the nation, and the globe, have arrived to enjoy one of the state’s top parks and its white sands and access to one of the area’s great natural resources, St. Joseph Bay.

The beaches of the state park have been proclaimed among the best in the nation by Dr. Beach, Dr. Stephen Leatherman.

Knapke added that the motto for Florida State Parks is “The Real Florida” and T.H. Stone Memorial St. Joseph Peninsula State Park has been keeping it “real” for 50 years.

The park preserves one of the largest tracts of undeveloped coastal dune ecosystems in the state, including a 1,700-acre wilderness preserve.

The park is home to habitat for a number of flora, fauna and birds, including the threatened snowy plover and the endangered St. Andrew beach mouse.

The park is also home to cultural and historical resources, including sites settled by hunter-gatherers of the Weeden Island, Mississippian and Fort Walton cultures.

Further, within the park boundaries is the site of a former fort established by Spanish explorers and a former World War II-era military training site.

The park has primitive camp sites as well as cabins, miles of hiking trails and views of spectacular sunsets.

T.H. Stone was the pioneer of modern Port St. Joe, helping to found the city, serving as mayor, county commissioners and Florida legislature.

He was the first post master of the city.

He was the former owner of the land which comprises the park, the state purchasing the land after his death in 1958.

Seven years later the park was born.