New park manager is in familiar territory
The new manager of Lovers Key State Park is not only a Florida native, but also spent time as a ranger and manager of parks all over the state. Robert Steiger recently was appointed by the Bureau of Parks to assume the top position at Lovers Key.
Steiger began his park service career 33 years ago as a park ranger and law enforcement ranger at Honeymoon Island State Park near Dunedin, Fla. He spent time as assistant park manager at Tomoka State Park in Ormond Beach and Anastasia Island State Park in St. Augustine. From there he was promoted to park manager at Paynes Creek State Historic Site on the Peace River. Most recently he served as the park manager of Delnor- Wiggins State Park, where he worked for 22 years.
Steiger has a long history with Lovers Key State Park. He was its manager when it was called Carl E. Johnson County Park. In 1983, the state acquired the islands and in 1996, merged with adjacent Carl E. Johnson County Park to become Lovers Key Carl E. Johnson State Park.
As part of his new responsibilities at Lovers Key State Park, he now will lead the FOLKS (Friends of Lovers Key) non-profit in protecting, preserving and supporting Lovers Key State Park.
While at Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park, Steiger and his team of rangers and volunteers eradicated nearly all of the invasive plants. Now, much of the park’s native landscape has been restored. He plans to do the same at Lovers Key State Park. Invasives include Australian pine seedlings, Brazilian pepper and earleaf acacia.
Steiger was born in St. Petersburg. “Growing up I watched developments swell and watched the dredging going on in the 1960s,” he said. “I felt a need to protect the resources we had. If I joined the park service, I would learn about the nature of Florida.”
While fishing one day, Steiger met two rangers form Hillsborough State Park who also influenced that decision. At that time, he started to volunteer at Weedon Island Preserve. After 12 interviews in various parks around the state, Steiger was hired for Honeymoon Island State Park.
What Steiger likes most about the park manager position is that he’s helping to preserve Florida for future generations. “I have a granddaughter who will get to reap the benefits of what we do now,” he said. “I get to meet people with the same mindset, people who are environmentally minded.”