All posts by March Ard

Preserve Visitor Center Repaired

August 2019

The St. Joseph Bay State Buffer Preserve Center buildings have been closed since Hurricane Michael in October. Four staff members work from a temporary office in a trailer on site.

Although the Buffer staff had to wait a while for a construction crew to be available, the crew has been working there for months now. Presently they are repairing the foundation under the Lodge and the other raised buildings. Reconstruction and repairs are coming along well. Preserve manager Dylan Shoemaker estimates re-opening of the buildings in September.

Trails at the Buffer Preserve and the Deal Tract are open to visitors. A walk might be nice, if you can find a cool day!

Friends Website Is Up Again
www.stjosephbaypreserve.org
Thanks to free help from Dusty Alford, one of the generous Directors of the Friends of St. Joseph Bay Preserves, our website is once again visible online!
Please note the slight change in the URL of the site: it is now www.stjosephbaypreserve.org without the final “s” on “preserve.”
The website does need some updating in places. We’ll get it all ship-shape soon.

Friends of the St. Joseph Bay Preserves Board Meetings
The Board of Directors of the Friends of St. Joseph Bay Preserves met informally on June 18, their first meeting since last September. Several people had spent months out of town because of damage to their homes. So the meeting was a heartwarming reunion.

Still there were elements of shock remaining from the hurricane that hit three days before our planned Fall Bay Day.

The Board is enthusiastic about planning the next Bay Day fundraiser, but with the buildings at the Buffer Preserve still closed, we can’t be sure of being ready for a Fall Bay Day by the second Saturday of October. We’ll be back for Winter Bay Day, though, on the second Saturday in February! Please plan to be with us on February 8!
The next Board of Directors meeting is to be held at the Buffer Visitor Center on Tuesday, August 20, at 4:30 p.m.

Sonny Chafin, Year-Round Volunteer for Friends and the St. Joseph Bay State Buffer Preserve, Died on July 7
Anyone who has spent time at the St. Joseph Bay State Buffer Preserve, at the Office or the Lodge or at Bay Days, probably has talked to Sonny Chafin. He was usually there helping out. He served some years as Treasurer of the Friends group and as a Director of Friends. He had a kindly face, a friendly presence, and usually an encouraging word. He was always willing to help. He’ll be missed more than he would have ever guessed.

Sonny was married to Sandra Chafin. They have three daughters and several grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

 

Scars Hurt Signs Are Up

Boat Launch at Frank Pate Park, Port St. Joe

Jon Brucker, Manager of the Aquatic Preserve, suggested a set of new signs from the Be Seagrass Safe organization to attract boaters’ attention to the need to protect seagrass in the St. Joseph Bay. The large, colorful signs were purchased by the Friends and installed by Aquatic Preserves staff at  popular boat launch sites.
The seagrass growing in the St. Joseph Bay is mostly the type called turtle grass. It provides shelter for small salt water animals and for young, growing fish and shellfish. It is also a favorite food source for juvenile green sea turtles.

Bigger Better Sea Turtle Fest

Friends of St. Joseph Bay Preserves had lots of visitors to our booth at the 2nd annual Sea Turtle Festival, held on July 2 at George Core Park in Port St. Joe. Our most popular exhibit by far was the skeleton of Lester the loggerhead sea turtle. He resides in the Buffer Visitor Center, in case you missed seeing him last Sunday.

The Sea Turtle Festival is fun for everyone, with a marine life touch tank from Gulf Specimen Marine Lab, lots of crafts vendors, and informational booths like ours about the natural environment and parks in our area, and of course about the Turtle Patrols. There were also hot dogs, ice cream, and live music!

Thanks to our volunteers at the Sea Turtle Festival: Sandra and Sonny Chafin, John Ehrman, Linda Flynn, Lillian Hughes, Don Maples, Nancy Thomson, Lynda and Jim White Tim Nelson, and March Ard.

Preserves Hosts Students

Preparing to use the telescope with Lillian Hughes and Setting out on a tram tour with Dylan Shoemaker

Rooms at the St. Joseph Bay State Buffer Preserve have stayed nearly full this spring with several college student groups staying at the Buffer while doing research in the Buffer or Aquatic Preserve.

The Buffer Center has also hosted groups of preschool, elementary, and middle school students who visit with their teachers. During a morning visit, the children get a tram tour, several hands-on activities to help them learn about conservation, and snacks. We are very fortunate to have Sandra Chafin as the Buffer Preserve’s administrative assistant. She taught school for more than a decade and knows how to keep children busy and learning. Many volunteers from Friends helped with the school groups.

New Land Acquisitions

Two tracts of land added to the St. Joseph Bay State Buffer Preserve!

This spring Friends of St. Joseph Bay Preserves purchased 20 quarter-acre lots adjacent to the north border  of the Buffer Preserve on April 30. This five-acre tract is located off State Road 30A (but without road access)in Simmons Bayou. It is a wetland area which will enhance the conservation efforts of the Buffer Preserve.

The State of Florida Department of Environmental Protection, using money given by Eglin Air Force Base, bought the one-acre bay front lot just north of the Buffer Center on State Road 30A (two photos above). The lot is now under ownership of the Buffer Preserve! Eglin AFB provided funds for this purchase as part of its Readiness and Environmental Protection Integration (REPI) program. The REPI program involves partnership between Eglin AFB and a number of state and local government agencies,the Nature Conservancy, and the Florida Defense Alliance of Enterprise Florida, Inc. REPI has the goal of creating a Northwest Florida Greenway of protected land within a 100-mile corridor from the base, near Niceville, to the Apalachicola National Forest. Although protecting wildlife habitat and wildlife migration corridors may seem a surprising interest for the Air Force, there is an important military purpose.

Eglin is host to Joint Strike Fighter training, which requires planes to fly in low to the base from a distance of 90 miles. While it conserves wildlife habitat, the Greenway also prevents development, construction, and human activities that would be sensitive to the low-flying planes. The Northwest Florida Greenway lies beneath or near airspace previously set aside for the special use of Eglin AFB.

From the Buffer’s perspective, the addition of this lot not only increases the amount of protected bay front land but also prevents undesirable development that might result in harm to marsh and sea grasses along the Buffer Center’s shore.

On-Site Volunteers

Our site volunteers this month are Jeff and Dorie, and Carl and Pat. Jeff is a retired military officer and a jack-of-all-trades. He drives tram tours, fixes things, and does anything that needs doing. Carl’s and Pat’s specialty is marketing. Last year they initiated the Live Auction preceding Bay Day by soliciting many valuable donations from our local merchants. This spring they’re continuing that work so that we can have terrific Live Auctions on the Thursday nights before this year’s Fall and Spring Bay Days. Site volunteers are essential to the Buffer, which has only four paid staff.

Friends Post Signs to Protect Seagrass

John Brucker, Manager of the Aquatic Preserve, suggested a set of new signs from the Be Seagrass Safe organization to attract boaters’ attention to the need to protect seagrass in the St. Joseph Bay. The large, colorful signs will be purchased by Friends and installed by Aquatic Preserves staff at three popular boat launch sites: George Pate Park in downtown Port St. Joe, Presnell’s Landing on State Road 30A (if the owner permits), and St. Joseph Peninsula State Park at Eagle Harbor.
The seagrass growing in the St. Joseph Bay is mostly the type called turtle grass. It provides shelter for small salt water animals and for young, growing fish and shellfish. It is also a favorite food source for juvenile green sea turtles.

Bay Day a Terrific Fund-Raiser

The Live Auction, Feb. 2, and Winter Bay Day ,Feb. 4, brought in over $9,000 in net donations, after deducting our costs. Please be sure to thank our commercial sponsors who gave items for the auctions and raffle! Business owners from Mexico Beach to Apalachicola responded to requests by site volunteers Pat Caruana and Carl Janish, and most local businesses donated valuable merchandise or services for our auctions. You can find their business cards and brochures on display at the Buffer Visitors’ Center. Please thank our sponsors!
All of you volunteers deserve a huge Thank You, too! Here’s a breakdown of net funds received from some of the Winter Bay Day activities you helped with:
Shrimp Boil, 491 plates sold, $4,911
Live Auction, $3,648
T-shirt sales, $1,091
Silent Auction, $872
Memberships, $860
Raffle, $696
Cookie Sales, $287

Friends to Purchase Land for the Preserve

Twenty-five quarter-acre lots adjacent to the north border of the St. Joseph Bay State Buffer Preserve came on the market in late 2016.
Dylan Shoemaker, Preserve Manager, told the Friends Board of Directors about this rare opportunity to expand the land area of the
Buffer. Dylan and the Buffer’s ecologist, Allix North, walked over the lots and rated them according to their potential benefit to the Buffer’s conservation efforts. Most of the land is too wet for  building; it is near State Road 30A in Simmons Bayou but has no road access. The Friends Board and the bank managing the sale have agreed on a contract and set the closing date for late April: Friends will buy 20 of the lotsfor $50,000 (leaving over $40,000 in the Friends’ treasury). Friends will transfer ownership to the Buffer Preserve and the State. All Friends members should celebrate this real and lasting gift to one of our Preserves!

Splash Trash Tour

What happens when trash hits the splash? As we all enjoy the beautiful Florida ocean and beaches, we are also facing an enormous challenge – trash in our oceans. It is having devastating effects on our sea and wildlife, our beaches, our local economies and our human health.

 Special Events include:

Trash in the Oceans and You – April 6, 10:00 – 11:00: What is the status of plastic trash in our oceans and what can we do to make a difference?  Is recycling the answer?  Is ocean clean-up technology the answer?  Join Splash Trash creator, Bette Booth, in this interactive presentation to learn the answers to these and many other questions about trash in our oceans.

Splash Trash Family Day Saturday April 1 – 10:00 – 2:00.   Join artist Bette Booth while she is making a new art piece –  “Catch of the Day”.

This is the final stop on the Splash Trash 2017 Florida Tour and the response has been overwhelming.  As one visitor summarized, “Everyone needs to see this show.  The message is that important.”  Another commented, “It’s beautiful.  It’s disturbing.  It’s inspiring.”

Splash Trash Tour Hours
March 31:  9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
April 1:  10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.
April 3 – 6:  9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
April 7:  9:00 a.m. – 12:00