Sawgrass Recreation Park Approved for 20 Additional Years on State Lease
Fort Lauderdale, June 18th, 2017: On Wednesday June 14th, 2017 Governor Rick Scott, Attorney General Pam Bondi, Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater, and Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam all voted in favor of a lease extension for the Soverns family who currently own and manage Sawgrass Recreation Park. This will allow the family an additional twenty years beyond their existing lease agreement with the Department of Environmental Protection. Sawgrass Recreation Park offers visitors the opportunity to see the true Florida Everglades up close during their daytime and nighttime airboat adventures that are offered year round. In addition, they feature exhibit areas with over 100 adopted and rescued animals. The park currently employs forty staff members, twelve are directly related to the family and several other father/son and husband/wife duos are also employed. Almost a dozen of the staff members have been with the park for more than a decade.
A member of the family and Chief Business Officer for the park, Christina Soverns Schwartzman spoke at the cabinet meeting on behalf of the six family members that were present that day stating, “We wanted to express our sincerest gratitude to the Governor and Cabinet for considering this agenda item today. As stewards of the states’ land, we have taken the mission very personally and seriously with the time we have been given. Our family has spent the last decade working 7 days a week to grow Sawgrass Recreation Park into the eco attraction it is today. We have been able to adopt and rescue more than 100 animals, host more than 100k students to our park for field trips, donate thousands to local charities and causes, and have doubled our employment opportunities over the years. Our educational airboat adventures and exhibit presentations help teach visitors about the natural wonder that is in our backyard. Our sincerest hope is that we educate guests from all over the world about how to make their individual footprints as minimal as possible and how to respect, conserve and co-exist with the environment that surrounds us. It has been a gift to work for the protection of our Everglades and to grow our park into what it is today. We are just getting started and with 20 more years we can realize so many more of the capital improvements we have dreamed of, create even more jobs, educate more visitors, welcome more students, and spread more love about the work we do.”
Chief Financial Officer, Jeff Atwater added comments after the motion had carried, “I think we have all learned something during this process, and to hear Christina’s comments, those are from the heart, that’s from the experience, that’s from all of the sweat, ingenuity, the creativity that some of us might look at as a small business mindset, but this is a family that spoke of stewardship, love and commitment, spoke of bringing people, and understanding and educating them to this experience. The (family) thought of the responsibility they had to another generation, to the wildlife, and the marine life that they feel responsible to protect and defend and ensure that is there. You spoke of this being a gift to you; frankly I think all of us here today would say you have been a gift to the people of Florida and that extraordinary ecosystem, so thank you to all of you.”
The Soverns’ family and staff would like to thank Governor Scott and the Cabinet for their support as well as the Department of Environmental Protection. In the next several months details of the parks’ plans for a celebration will be announced and those activities will commence in the fall. The parks’ Chief Operations Officer and family member, Melissa Auld Soverns stated, “It feels like the possibilities of what we can achieve are endless. We have already worked so hard over the last 12 years since we acquired the park and we really can’t see ourselves as happy as we are anywhere else. We are thrilled at the additional time we have been given because it means we can make even more of our dreams for the park come true. For our fans and visitors, all I can say is stay tuned, here we go!”