Florida State Parks Foundation Supports The Fort

The dream to reconstruct the original structure at Fort Mose requires a little blood, sweat, toil and tears – and a lot of money. Leading the way in the fundraising effort for the project is the Florida State Parks Foundation.

The Fort Mose Historical Society set a goal to reconstruct the fort in the mid-1990s, but the program really took off in 2022 with a nearly $1 million grant from the Florida African American Cultural and Historical Grants Program. And that happened with the help of the Foundation.

“We met the Fort Mose Historical Society at a 2019 statewide conference,” said Julia Gill Woodward, Florida State Parks Foundation CEO, “where we first heard about their dream of having the original 1738 fort reconstructed.”

Woodward said the Foundation saw the commitment Historical Society members brought to the project and decided to lend a fundraising hand.

“We were so inspired by their determination, passion and commitment we started partnering up with them to find grant applications applicable to the project,” she said. “In the fall of 2021 we found what we felt was the perfect match grant in African American cultural heritage grants.”

Woodward said the Foundation applied for the competitive grant in coordination with Fort Mose Historic State Park and the Fort Mose Historical Society.

“For part of the grant we had to raise matching funds,” she said.

The $250,000 raised by the Foundation included funds from Florida State Parks, the Jacksonville Jaguars Foundation, Florida Blue, The Community Foundation for Northeast Florida and from St. Johns County. County officials are considering an additional $200,000 grant for the project.

“We are right at $2.6 million raised out of the $3 million needed,” Woodward said.

The Florida State Parks Foundation was founded in 1993 and is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year.

“Our mission is to preserve, protect, sustain and grow our Florida state parks through fundraising, through programming and through advocacy,” Woodward said. “One of our programming areas is support our Citizen Support Organizations.”

According to information from the Florida Park Service Citizen Support Organization Handbook, “Citizen Support Organizations (CSOs) are some of the Division of Recreation and Parks’ most treasured resources helping to support Florida’s state parks, provide visitor services and protect the amazing natural and cultural resources unique to our exceptional state through volunteerism.”

Woodward said she is excited about the Fort Mose reconstruction effort.

“I think it is a really unique project in our country and in our state,” she said. “I think most people don’t realize it is the first legally sanctioned free Black community in the United States. I think a lot of people in our state don’t know that.”

Woodward said the reconstruction project, “is going to bring that story to light in a way it was never told before.”