While preservation of cultural and natural resources was a paramount purpose of state parks from its inception, the founders recognized that state parks should also "provide our permanent residents with wholesome places for active and passive recreation in natural settings devoid, insofar as possible, of commercial activities."
The first parks developed by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) included picnic areas, camping facilities for tents and trailers, cabins, concessions and nature trails. Boat rentals, swimming and fishing were common recreational pursuits. By 1940 six state parks had picnic areas, three had overnight cabins and three offered tent camping and swimming. By 1954, 17 state parks offered tent camping and two offered trailer camping. Four parks offered group camps, seven had nature trails, eight had enclosed recreation buildings and eight offered swimming. These became the standard forms of recreation for state parks.
In 1938, after three years of development and with three parks officially opened, average yearly attendance at parks was around 50,000. By 1953 attendance had surpassed one million. Hugh Taylor Birch, the only beachfront state park in south Florida, accounted for nearly 325,000 of those visitors, nearly one-third of all park attendance.
In the mid-1950s, Florida State Parks established nine parks with segregated areas and three segregated parks. In 1964, as the result of a lawsuit filed by the National Association for Advancement of Colored People, the Florida Board of Parks and Memorials removed all segregation signs and opened state parks to all people.