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

Tram Tours running again!


Beginning Thursday, January 16, 2020 at 9:00 AM – 11:30 AM
And continuing on each THIRD Thursday of the month.

We’re so excited to have our tram tours running again! Space is limited so please email our Environmental Specialist Sophia Fonseca to reserve your spot. Be sure to include how many individuals are attending.  Send Email

The tour is open wagon with no roof. Please bring hats and sunglasses to protect from the sun. The tour will begin on Treasure Road across the street from the Preserve Center. Looking forward to seeing you!  Learn More

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.

15th Bay Day! Outstanding Sponsors!

It all started in 2003 when the first Board of the Friends of the Preserves decided to have a thank you for those who had supported their tireless efforts of establishing a committed group of citizens concerned with helping the health of the bay. Charla Boggs was the first president of this illustrious group of citizens. That first group and each group who have followed have displayed extraordinary desires to restore the land, protect the water, and preserve for the future.

Lynda White is the current president who has been blessed with an outstanding board and wonderful opportunities during her term in office. Purchasing 25 lots contiguous to the Buffer Preserve will help continue to help protect the quality of the water and wildlife in and near St. Joe Bay. Lynda says, “It has been a privilege to serve on the board and as its president. Opportunities have been presented and funds from our previous Bay Days allowed us to make these purchases. The 5,025+ acres benefit the entire community. Improvements made in the buffer and aquatic preserves contribute to the mission of the Friends.”

Would you believe that over 300 attended the first “Low Country Boil”? How about this fact? There were 7 prizes donated to be given away in a drawing at that first event. Yes, you read it correctly. Seven prizes were given and of that seven — four of them are still donating prizes for the Bay Day Live Auction, Silent Auction or for the Raffle. Original sponsors were: Dead Fish Charters at the Indian Pass Campground, The Entrance, Happy Ours, Debbie Hooper Photography, Indian Pass Raw Bar, St. Vincent Island Shuttle Service and Richard and Anne Ingram.

THANK YOU to the 200+ local business sponsors for 2018!
Our Fall Bay Day, Silent Auction and Live Auction would not be possible without the generous donations of desirable goods and services made by our local business sponsors.
When you are considering making a purchase use a business who knows the value of the bay to the citizens of Gulf County and the surrounding area. Go to the Donors & Sponsors page on this website for a complete list of our donors and sponsors.

For an authentic experience (the Atlanta Magazine says), come on out to the St. Joseph Bay Buffer Preserve on Saturday, October 13th. You can participate in a great Birding Tour led by Ron Houser of the Bay County Audubon Society, beginning at 8:00 am ET. There will be four TRAM Tours: 9:30 am, 11:00 am, 12:30 pm, 2:00 pm. Twenty-four seats for each time. Both are free however, you must sign up to participate.

We will ask for a $10 donation for each shrimp plate and what a bargain that is. The first plates in 2003 were $7 so you can see they are still reasonable and most delicious.

While you are enjoying Bay Day, stop by our Silent Auction tables and check out the Silent Auction Bid Items.

You will not want to miss our Live Auction event Thursday October 11th starting at 6:30 pm ET at the Preserve Visitor Center. This is an excellent opportunity to make donations to the preserves while having a lot of fun. Our Auctioneer Frank will entertain you while encouraging you to go ahead and plan that charter fishing trip or enjoy that stay at the beach, take a day to recharge and be pampered. You can find a multitude of choices for that experience. Your house needing some repairs? Look at our home improvement section for help.

Want to see what your choices are? Go to the Live Auction Bid Items page on this website and see the entire list of donations made by our awesome sponsors. All to help protect the bay, the natural communities and wildlife in the preserve.

Look for hand-outs of the Live Auction items in retail stores in the area and check them out online. Christmas is right around the corner and you can get started early. You will be so proud of yourself for getting that head start and in such an outstanding way – helping the preserves.

If you have questions please call 850-229-1787, Ext. 1 for more information.

 

Volunteers Help Businesses and Preserves

They did it again, volunteers at the St. Joseph Bay Buffer Preserve thanked local business owners for their help in the last two previous Bay Day Celebrations. They also happily accepted donations for the Fall Bay Day and Live Auction which will be on Oct. 11th and Oct. 13th. The gift certificates are under lock and key for next February. Pat Caruana and Carl Janish have performed their magic – helping to promote local businesses with an outstanding Sponsors Display in the Visitor Center. All donations are used to raise funds for various projects during the year by the Friends of the Preserves Citizen Support Organization. Many locals are members of the group and membership is encouraged. Attending the Live Auction on Thursday before the Saturday Bay Day event helps the CSO even more. Come on out and be ready to be floored by the gifts and services available. Donations will be accepted in the form of cash or credit card.

Board President Lynda White “sincerely hopes everyone will attend the Live Auction on Thursday night and Bay Day on Saturday.  Birding and TRAM Tours, Low Country Shrimp Boil, Live Bluegrass music, Silent Auction and Raffles. You will have a great day and be glad you got out to enjoy the beauty of the preserves.”

This is an excellent opportunity to give unique gifts to family and friends for birthdays, anniversaries, or Christmas. Think how relaxed you will be in December when your Christmas shopping is almost complete! Shirts and ties are out of vogue and charter fishing trips are in. Your spouse will thank you profusely and you will make points for the whole year.

Want to know what kind of items you might find at the Live Auction, Silent Auction or Raffle? These items are listed on the Friends of the Preserves website.

So, if you have a fear of attending auctions just relax. Friends of the Preserves Board Members will help you so you can enjoy the night. Another site volunteer, Frank Hermanek will serve as auctioneer for the second time and he makes the event enjoyable even if someone outbids you on an item. There is wine and cheese to enjoy also.

Remember, your donations by membership or participation in the auctions, raffles, or by attending Bay Day are used to assist the Aquatic and Buffer Preserves exclusively. Keeping St. Joseph Bay in outstanding condition is a priority for the CSO. The 5,025 acres surrounding the bay serve as a water recharge area naturally cleaning the waters coming down the watershed before it reaches the bay. We are not just talking about the bay for our use now but for the next generations to follow.

Dylan Shoemaker, Preserve Manager “invites everyone to come to the preserve and enjoy being outside. Listen to bluegrass music and enjoy an authentic experience with a Low Country Shrimp Boil prepared right on the deck. Local wild-caught shrimp make the boil extraordinary for a mere $10 donation.”

The mission of the Friends of the Preserves is: Restoring the Land, Protecting the Water, and Preserving the Future! How can you help? Attend the Live Auction on Thursday, October 11th and Bay Day on October the 13th!

The LIVE Auction on October 11th and the Fall Bay Day on October 13th are two events it will be worth your while to participate in while you are helping the Aquatic and the Buffer Preserves.

Raising funds to help in YOUR backyard! The mission of the Friends of the Preserves: Restore the Land, Protect the Water, Preserve for the Future. You can help!!

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

A Citizen Support Organization established to protect and preserve one of the most ecologically significant areas in the Southeastern United States