Category Archives: News

Friends Newsletter, May 2024

Some Upcoming and Ongoing Activities:

A major ongoing project for The Friends, working with the assistance of the Buffer staff, is the creation of interpretive signs to help visitors identify plants and environmental information along our newly developed interpretive trail.  This short loop trail runs along the Bay just north of the observation tower at the Buffer headquarters buildings. The Bay views from the trail are stunning. When fully developed the trail will be an important educational addition congruent with the Buffer Visitor Center and the Bay Observation Tower.  Currently we are looking for interested people to assist us with this project in regard to sign design, fund raising support and continuing trail design.

We just concluded our Winter “On the Buffer Deck” stargazing program which will resume in the Fall on October 10th at 7:30PM, November 7th at 6:30PM and December 5th at 6:30 PM.  Our favorite astronomer, Skip Marlin, a NASA Solar System Volunteer and a member of Dark Sky, will have his large Newtonian telescope along with others set up on the deck of the Buffer and will provide a tour of our astronomical environment.

The Buffer Preserve will be hosting a tour exploring the Preserve environments in cooperation with the Florida Wildflower Foundation on Saturday June 8th beginning at 10AM. The natural coastal landscape of the Preserve has one of the highest concentrations of rare plants in the southeastern United States, including globally imperiled species. Participants will board the tram and travel into the preserve, with a focus on areas of recent spring burns. The tram will stop at different sites so participants can explore them up close. Trip cost: Free for members of the Florida Wildflower Foundation and $10 for non-members. Proceeds from the field trip will go to Friends of St. Joseph Bay Preserves. To sign up for this unique experience visit:

Friends Board members and volunteers are getting ready to participate once again in the Annual Forgotten Coast Turtle Festival on Sunday June 30 in Port St. Joe from 11:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m. ET located at George Core Park. This event will include music, food, beverages, Sea Creature Parade and will allow the Friends of St. Joseph Bay Preserves the opportunity to educate the public about the importance of the Preserves and the role they play in helping to maintain a healthy ecosystem.  Our booth will distribute educational literature, sell Preserves related merchandise, and provide us the chance to visit directly with the public.

Another developing program that the Friends are looking forward to sponsoring is Birding Seminars presented by Nelson Mongiovi beginning at 7PM at the Buffer on September 12th, 2024, December 12th, 2024, March 13, 2025, and June 12, 2025. Possible topics include: An Overview of birding along Florida’s Forgotten Coast; The latest free birding apps and technology; Shorebirds along the Gulf Coast; Birds of Prey in our area; The Owls of Florida; and Wading birds found around our area.  These seminars would be offered free to the general public and we are also looking to forward expanding the number and timing of these presentations.

We are beginning a new project at the request of visitors who like to hike in the Buffer Preserve.  The Friends, working in conjunction with the Buffer staff, are designing and planning to build and install walk-overs for low water crossings.  These crossings will assist visitors walking the Buffer main road when water runoff can be too high for foot traffic.

As you know, The Friends of the St. Joseph Bay Preserves holds two Bay Day events each year on the first Saturday in February and October.  These Bay Day celebrations serve as our major fundraisers. We are currently beginning our planning for our upcoming October Bay Day. If you have any questions/comments or would be interested in volunteering to assist us with our upcoming October Bay Day or any of the projects described above, please let us know at

Richard Trahan, President
Friends of Saint Joseph Bay Preserves

The Friends of St. Joseph Bay Preserves, Inc., is a non-profit Citizen Support Organization established in 2003 to protect and preserve one of the most ecologically significant areas in the Southeastern United States, and to support the St. Joseph Bay Buffer Preserve and St. Joseph Bay Aquatic Preserve.

Friends Newsletter, November 2023


Warm sunny weather helped to bring out visitors On Saturday October 7th for our annual Fall Bay Day fund raiser.  Our famous Low Country Shrimp Boil served 160 hungry visitors who also enjoyed live music, a silent auction, guided tours through the backwoods trails of the Buffer Preserve, and an Audubon bird walk.  Additional informative environmental presentations were held in the Visitor Center. Among the many exhibitors present were the Central Panhandle Aquatic Preserve, Saint Joseph State Park, Saint Andrews & Saint Joseph Bays Estuary Program, BaySavers, Aquatech/Aquaticus, Indian Pass Turtle Patrol, Fish and Wildlife Commission/FWRI Scallops, Florida Native Plant Society, SJP Turtle Patrol, Friends of St. Vincent Wildlife Reserve, International Dark Sky Association, and various area governmental and nonprofit environmental organizations.

We surveyed a number of our visitors asking them how they would rate their Bay Day experience based on a 1 to 5 scale with 1 being very poor and 5 being very good.  They responded with a 4.83 average.   In general, their comments were overwhelmingly positive with statements like: “Great, Fun, Love all the information and people, Nice people, Good tour, Enjoyed the band, Would like to come back, Enjoyable Day, Well organized and interesting, Will be back, Best yet, Best so far, Very organized, Excellent,” and so forth.

As you know, The Friends of the St. Joseph Bay Preserves hold two Bay Day events each year on the first Saturday in October and February.  If you missed it, please join us for the fun in February and if it works for you consider volunteering to assist us with this major fund-raising project.

The Friends, with the assistance of the Buffer staff, have begun an interpretative trail project that has completed its first phase of construction.  The base material for the trail meeting ADA standards has been laid down as a short loop trail that runs along the Bay just north of the observation tower. The Bay views from the trail are stunning. When finished the trail will be an important educational addition congruent with the Buffer Visitor Center and the Bay Observation Tower.  The next major focus of this project will be creating visitor usage locations and interpretive signage. We are also looking for interested people who would like to assist us with this project in regard to fund raising support and continuing trail design.

This year the Friends Board of Directors have added three new members.  Brenda Burnett, Patrick Foy and Kelly Houk.  Each of them brings important skills and perspectives to the Board.  The Board currently consists of thirteen elected members and two exofficio non-voting members who are the Site Managers of the Aquatic and Buffer State Preserves.

Unfortunately, our current Treasurer is leaving the Board. We want to recognize the dedication and hard work that March Ard has done in that position. The Treasurer serves as a Board officer who works closely with the Board President and Secretary to help the Board fulfill its fiduciary responsibilities.  This is a critical role within the Friends. If you or someone you know would be a good candidate for this important position, please contact me at the number below.

Hope all is well in your life,

Richard Trahan, President
Friends of St. Joseph Bay Preserves
(970) 744-9801.

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
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 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!

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.