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:  https://www.flawildflowers.org/event/240608-field-trip-buffer-preserve/

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 stjosephbaypreserve.org.

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

BAY DAY

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.

INTERPRETATIVE TRAIL 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.

CHANGES IN BOARD MEMBERSHIP AND HELP NEEDED
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. rtrahan@comcast.net

Join the Sea Urchin Roundup – Saturday, September 9, 2023

 HELP DEP AND FWC REHOME SEA URCHINS – SEPT. 9, 2023

St. Joseph Bay, located in Gulf County in the Panhandle, once contained extensive beds of seagrass and supported an abundant scallop fishery. Residents and visitors enjoyed extensive, pristine seagrass beds and clear bay waters. Summertime recreational scallop harvesting contributed greatly to the local economy. Seagrass beds in the bay are dominated by turtle grass which also provide food for abundant green sea turtles. The scallop fishery has become depleted in recent years, algal blooms are more frequent, and the acreage of seagrass beds has decreased. An overabundance of sea urchins (Lytechinus spp.) continues to destroy turtle grass beds through overgrazing. This project will jump start natural recovery of seagrass by installing exclosures over grazed areas to allow seagrasses to grow back without sea urchin grazing pressure. In addition, sea urchin roundups, public outreach events, will involve citizens to remove sea urchins from active grazing fronts. The animals will be released in deeper areas of the bay at a distance from grazed areas.

Festival of Trees at The Joe Center for the Arts, through Dec. 12, 2021

See the Friends of St. Joseph Bay Preserves Christmas tree at the Festival of Trees, at The Joe Center for the Arts!  Many organizations and businesses have decorated beautiful and original trees for this display.  Vote for your favorite!  Plus there are special events including a Silent Auction.  For the schedule, see https://thejoecenterforthearts41.wildapricot.org/

201 Reid Avenue, Port Saint Joe/ Wednesday-Saturday, 11-6, except Thanksgiving weekend (closing at 3 on Weds., reopening on Sat.)

Friends of the Preserves 2021 Festival of Trees

Guided Tram Tours

The third Thursday of every month, the Buffer Preserve offers a tram tour through the preserve. The tour will begin with a separate history talk inside the Visitor Center at 8:00 a.m. EDT. Attendees will then proceed to the Main Gate parking lot (across the street from the visitor center) to board the tram.
The tram moves slowly, and our staff will interpret the surroundings while you ride down Treasure Road and Sandridge Road. Remember to bring anything that will make your ride more comfortable: hat, sunscreen, water, insect repellent, raincoat, camera, binoculars, etc. The tram has no roof so be prepared for sun or possibly a light shower. We will not cancel if the rain is light and no lightning is present.

To reserve your spot please email Sandra Chafin at Sandra.Chafin@dep.state.fl.us , or phone her at 850-229-1787. Include the names and number of people in your party.
Masks are suggested on the tram.

Join the Sea Urchin Roundup – May 22nd

Participate in the Sea Urchin Roundup on May 22, 2021

The FDEP/Central Panhandle Aquatic Preserves and FWC/FWRI are hosting the St. Joseph Bay Urchin Roundup on May 22nd. We are looking to recruit volunteers to help collect urchins to relocate out to deeper water to help reduce grazing pressure on seagrasses in St. Joseph Bay. See the information flyer.

Check-in is at the Frank Pate Public Boat Ramp in Port St. Joe.  We will also have a registration tent and outreach tent at Frank Pate Boat Ramp all day for the event.

Bring your own boat, gloves and snorkeling gear and join us in removing sea urchins from seagrass beds! We will provide maps and gps locations showing where to collect urchins and buckets to put them in. Return buckets filled with urchins to our check-in station and get some swag. We will relocate the urchins to deeper water away from seagrass.

Check-in begins at 8:00 AM, and all urchins must be turned in by 5:00 PM. Please check in with an FWC or DEP employee to get your bucket and sign a volunteer waiver. Urchins should be returned in this bucket with seawater to be safely relocated by FWC or DEP employees.

Rain date is June 5, 2021.

St. Joseph Bay, located in Gulf County in the Panhandle, once contained extensive beds of seagrass and supported an abundant scallop fishery. Residents and visitors enjoyed extensive, pristine seagrass beds and clear bay waters. Summertime recreational scallop harvesting contributed greatly to the local economy. Seagrass beds in the bay are dominated by turtle grass which also provide food for abundant green sea turtles. The scallop fishery has become depleted in recent years, algal blooms are more frequent, and the acreage of seagrass beds has decreased. An overabundance of sea urchins (Lytechinus spp.) continues to destroy turtle grass beds through overgrazing. This project will jump start natural recovery of seagrass by installing exclosures over grazed areas to allow seagrasses to grow back without sea urchin grazing pressure. In addition, sea urchin roundups, public outreach events, will involve citizens to remove sea urchins from active grazing fronts. The animals will be released in deeper areas of the bay at a distance from grazed areas.

This project is a partnership between FWRI and the Central Panhandle Aquatic Preserves of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. Staff from both agencies are maintaining the exclosures, monitoring the abundance of sea urchins quarterly, assessing sea grass abundance by in-water and mapping surveys, and measuring water quality monthly.

 

April 2 Let’s G.O. Walk in the Preserve

Let’s G.O. means “Let’s Get Outdoors.” Join a volunteer for a walk on the Island Road, about 1.5 miles round trip. We will meet at 9:00 a.m. Eastern time in the Island Gate parking area on County Road 30 (C30). Unfortunately the sign for Island Gate has been lost. The gate is located 0.9 mile east of the intersection of C30 and Cape San Blas Road, and 0.6 mile west of Money Bayou.

Maps are on our website:   “Maps.”

We’ll learn about interesting native plants and look out for birds and signs of other animals that live in the Preserve.

Children and dogs are welcome. Dogs must be leashed. Please wear a mask and comfortable shoes, bring sunscreen, water, and a hat, and be aware that we may encounter shallow pools of water or mud at spots along the trail.

For questions or reservations, use the Contact Us button on the menu across the top of our home page, or email admin@stjosephbaypreserve.org . Hope to see you this Friday!

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