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Is Florida’s nickname correct?

Florida Legislature officially adopted the nickname “Sunshine State” in 1970. But wait – the state of New Mexico has more days of sunshine per year than us! They were stamping the claim on their license plates decades before we ever did. So if sunshine is what people want, they’d go to New Mexico, right?

Florida’s population is 21.3 million with barely 2 million calling New Mexico home. In 2018 our state’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was ranked 4th in the nation – New Mexico was far behind with a GDP ranked 37th. There are 18 Fortune 500 companies between our shores and 0 in New Mexico. And take it for what it’s worth, but our state is booming with 694 Starbucks compared to around 75 in New Mexico. Apparently, this comparison is apples to our sweet oranges.

Are we the Frappuccino State? The Palm Tree State? The Beach State?

So if it’s not our sunshine – what makes Florida so darn great?

  • 1,350 miles of coastline – 2nd to Alaska & more than California
  • 30,000 lakes including the nation’s 4th largest, Lake Okeechobee
  • our world renowned “River of Grass” – the Florida Everglades
  • the most artesian springs and spring-fed rivers on the planet
  • 26,000 miles of rivers including the 310 mile St. Johns River
  • our world famous John Pennekamp Reef
  • the Floridan & Biscayne Aquifers
  • 663 miles of beautiful beaches
  • the Tampa & Biscayne Bays
  • the Florida Keys

That’s it! We have more water than New Mexico! We’re not the Sunshine State – we’re the Water State! How could the state legislators have gotten it so wrong? Maybe back in the 60’s, on the heels of a successful advertising campaign, Coppertone was passing out suntan lotion at the Capitol. Why else have we been stamping every darn license plate with “Sunshine State” for the last 50 years? Matter of fact isn’t it kind of lazy for our state to claim the sun as our own, when it is 92.6 million miles away and shared by everyone on the planet? And think about it – claiming a natural resource we have no control over may have caused us to ignore the beautiful waters lapping at our feet.

Damn the luck, maybe things would have been different if we claimed “Water State” decades ago. However, we did some research and found that the tourism industry knew what mattered most:

So there you have it – we’ve been showcasing our waters for decades! Fast forward to today and check out Visit Florida’s website or flip through one of the 500,000 travel magazines they distribute annually. Eighty percent of the photos they publish for tourists are of our beautiful waters. Matter of fact, 126 million tourists visited our state just last year (New Mexico only got 35 million). What did all those Florida tourists do while they were here?

Millions of tourists come here to see, to feel, to submerge in, to float on, to fish in, and to be surrounded by our water! Scroll through your Facebook and Instagram feeds. What kind of photos do tourists post? You guessed it – they are posting photos of themselves immersed in the watery world they came to experience. And by the way, where else on this planet is a family from Ohio going to see mermaids in water so clear they built an underwater theatre? Nowhere else in this nation will you find as diverse an outdoor tourism industry than our peninsula state!

We have water so clear our state parks have glass-bottom boats!

Ok. Ok. Enough about the millions of tourists that we love so much.  What about us locals? What do we want our state to be defined by? Sunshine? New Mexico can have it. Our culture, our lives revolve around the water at our feet! Matter of fact 90% of our Floridians (19 million) depend on two of the most relied-upon aquifers on the planet – the Floridan and Biscayne Aquifers. And speaking of the Floridan Aquifer – it is one of the most productive and beautiful  on this earth. North Florida has the bragging rights to nearly a thousand springs gushing out pure crystal-clear waters from the underground caves. Where else on the planet can you find such an awe inspiring system? It’s amazing that people from all over the world come to experience our waters flowing on top of our lands and flowing under them!

We have water so pure we bottle it up and sell it!

Culture? What is our Florida life without fishing, scuba diving, boating, cave diving, beaching, surfing, sailing? Check out the number of water adventures our recreation industry offers. How many Florida communities are dependent on water resources for tourism, food, property values, aesthetics, quality of life, entertainment, industry, commerce, recreation? How many seafood festivals are there in the state – clams, oysters, stone crabs, blue crabs, lobster, fiddler crabs, crawfish, and shrimp to name a few! How many fishing tournaments are held all across our state? What other state has the title “Fishing Capital of the World”?

Ok, we’re going there – politics. Florida voters, 75% of them, voted to pass the Florida Water and Land Conservation Amendment in 2014. Never before had so many Floridians from every walk of life and political angle unified to make it clear to Tallahassee the importance of our natural resources. Overwhelmingly, Floridians understand our natural resources’ value in relation to our quality of life, home values, business success, economy, and to the next generation. But all that momentum and confidence was eroded from actions, and inactions, at the Capitol. But make no mistake – our team feels it. All Floridians feel it. Our new Governor DeSantis is making waves, and all politicians (residents and tourists included) need to let this be their guiding principle for the future: Our surface and ground waters are highways connecting our developed lands to our natural lands. How we treat one impacts the other.

Action Items 
  • Give “Sunshine State” back to New Mexico
  • Draft legislation for a new nickname “Water State
  • Just don’t hashtag #waterstate – act like it!

Abundant & clean water gives life to every business, farmer, tourist, local, fisherman/woman, politician, activist, nonprofit, scuba diver, hunter, bird, tree, fish, and kid in our state.

This blog is the first of a three-part Water Logic series. Sign up for our newsletter below where you can choose to receive adventure related information, environmental issues, or industry news. The views expressed on this page do not represent the views of the advertisers or adventure providers on the website.

All photos captured by the PHF team. Cover & Photo 1 © CJ Oliverio / Photos 2 & 3 © John Starrett / Photos 4 & 5 © Tessa Skiles. Video 2 © Play Hard Florida. All rights reserved.

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