Category Archives: News

18th Winter Bay Day – A HUGE SUCCESS!

Everyone working together . . . makes any event successful! This was certainly the case for the 18th Winter Bay Day held on February 8th at the St. Joseph Bay Buffer Preserve. Just 5 plates less than 500 served made the day outstanding and even record-breaking in some areas.

Board members, volunteers and staff at the Preserve were ecstatic at the number of participants, dedicated volunteers, and supporting agencies and organizations setting up informational displays. Winter and Fall Bay Day events have returned after a year following Hurricane Michael. It has been a long road back and thankfully a successful one.

Dylan Shoemaker, Manager of the Preserve, proudly expressed with great enthusiasm, “how pleased we are with such a great turnout. After having to postpone Bay Day for over a year we were a little apprehensive about its return to the area. Attendance exceeded our expectations for which we are thankful. Our returning volunteers, year after year, provide consistency and allows us to grow and improve. Thanks to everyone for making Winter Bay Day 2020 one of the best ever!”

Four TRAM Tours were offered and were filled to capacity. The regularly scheduled Third Thursday on February 20th was also filled to capacity. If you have not experienced the tour join us. Twenty-six lucky people who have registered tour the heart of the preserve. For Fall and Winter Bay Day there is no early registration. If interested in the March TRAM Tour call 850-229-1787 as quickly as possible as several seats are already reserved.

Jonathan Brucker, St. Joseph Bay Aquatic Preserve Manager, was also excited with the turnout and the interest in St. Joe Bay and the concern for continued watching and protecting the bay. Jon and his staff cheerfully explained maps, brochures and the mission of the Aquatic Preserve to any and all who wanted to listen. He had this to say about the event, “Educating the public is first and foremost in our mission at the St. Joseph Bay Aquatic Preserve. Bay Day visitors and locals want to know how they can help us recover from the effects of Hurricane Michael. We have been so impressed with everyone’s sincere offers to assist clean-up in any way possible. Jon reported that signage for the bay will be replaced as quickly as possible.

“What a great day we had Saturday! The weather was perfect, the music was toe-tapping wonderful, the beer was cold, the shrimp were delicious and what a crowd! I had so many compliments on our event, with most saying they had missed us and were so glad we were back”, says Board President, Lynda White.

 

Friends Held Annual Meeting

The Friends of St. Joseph Bay Preserves held their annual meeting January 18th at the Buffer Preserve. Attendees were updated on the state of the Preserves post Michael. Dylan Shoemaker, Buffer Preserve Manager, reported on the efforts to clean up and repair damage to the land and buildings. Jonathan Brucker, Aquatic Preserve Manager, outlined ongoing testing of water quality in the bay and other locations as well as shoreline restoration and cleanup.
Lynda White, President of the Friends Board of
Directors, thanked the Friends for their support and encouraged everyone to get the word out that Bay Day is back, better than ever, on February 8th.   Lynda White

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.

 

Our Friends group land donation has made the news!

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: April 24, 2019
Land Donated to State of Florida in Gulf County
~Donation will preserve undeveloped tracts of land for native plants and animals~
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s Division of State Lands, acting on behalf of the
Governor and the Board of Trustees, announces the donation of a valuable piece of conservation land to the St. Joseph Bay State
Buffer Preserve in Gulf County. The 7.23 acre-property was donated by the Friends of St. Joseph Bay Preserves. This land is part of the St. Joseph Bay Buffer Florida Forever Project.
“This land will help protect one of the best-preserved archaeological sites in northwest Florida and one of the least disturbed coastal
bay systems statewide,” said DEP Secretary Noah Valenstein. “We thank the Friends of St. Joseph Bay Preserves for their donation,
partnership and dedication to protecting Florida’s unique natural resources.”
“Acquiring these lots will be very beneficial to the Buffer Preserve. Our staff constantly monitors the natural habitats of many plants and animals,” said St. Joseph Bay Buffer Preserves manager Dylan Shoemaker. “This acreage contains wetlands that are extremely
important to cleaning waters which drain to the bay.”
Managed by DEP’s Office of Reslience and Coastal Protection, St. Joseph Bay Buffer Project will protect the water quality and
productive seagrass beds of the bay by protecting the undeveloped land around it, ensuring the survival of dozens of rare plants. The
land will become a buffer while providing opportunities for the public to enjoy the natural beauty of the bay.
“As President, and along with the entire Board, we are thrilled to be able to purchase these lots,” said President of Friends of the St.
Joseph Bay Preserves Lynda F. White. “One of our major goals has been to assist in every way possible to increase the Preserves’ acreage. By doing so, we are investing in the future of St. Joseph Bay and St. Joseph Bay Buffer Preserve.”
Florida Forever is the state’s conservation and recreation lands acquisition program, a blueprint for conserving our natural resources and renewing our commitment to conserve our natural and cultural heritage. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s Division of State Lands is Florida’s lead agency for environmental management and stewardship.

Lester Stars at Turtle Fest

John Ehrman, Lynda White and Lester the Loggerhead

The Friends of St. Joseph Bay Preserves were well represented at the 3rd Annual Sea Turtle Festival on Sunday, July 1st. Even though it rained most of the day, there were many tourists and residents who stopped by to learn more about the Buffer and Aquatic Preserves.
Lester the Loggerhead, our education ambassador for sea turtles, enabled us to educate visitors about these remarkable creatures nesting on our beaches.  Lynda White

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.