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Encore: Lifelong advocate for our national and state parks takes on new role as director of the Alliance for Florida's National Parks


This episode originally aired on July 17, 2023.

Fran Mainella has spent her entire career in parks and recreation. Her first job in the field was as a playground counselor in Connecticut, which is where she grew up.

In 1977 Mainella moved to Florida to take a job with Tallahassee Parks and Recreation, and then took on the role of director of parks and recreation in Lake Park, Florida. She then became Executive Director of the Florida Park and Recreation Association in 1983, and then was appointed director of Florida State Parks in 1989. She was the first woman to hold that position.

And then, in 2001, president George W. Bush nominated her to become the first woman to director of the National Park Service — a role she held until 2006.

Now, she has taken on the role of Director of the Alliance for Florida's National Parks. The 20-year-old nonprofit works to promote the Everglades, Dry Tortugas and Biscayne National Parks, as well as Big Cypress National Preserve. Its website says their goal is “to instill in all people an appreciation of Florida's public lands and natural resources for what they are – the key to the sustainability and prosperity of the state - by enriching the park experience and connecting diverse communities to the nature that abounds in their backyards.”

Fran joins us from her home in Bonita Springs to talk about her life’s work and this new role with the Alliance.

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