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.

Archaeology Talk: “Going Ballistic”

Archaeology Talk at the Buffer on Friday, March 30, 2018. FL Public Archaeology Network to present program at 6:00 pm ET hosted by the St. Joseph Bay State Buffer Preserve. Meet in the Visitor Center to hear Janene Johnson talk about “Going Ballistic: Archaeology of Florida’s Natural Bridge Battlefield. Natural Bridge is located in the St. Mark’s floodplain and is the site of Florida’s second largest Civil War battlefield. Check starfl.com for listings of other activities beginning on Thursday at the library. These events are excellent and are the perfect vessel to learn or relearn about our state history.

Annual Membership Meeting

Annual Membership Meeting of the Friends of St. Joseph Bay Preserves January 6, 2018, 11am – 2pm 3915 State Road 30-A Port St. Joe, FL.  All Friends members are encouraged to attend and bring a not-yet member!
Agenda: Presentations by President, Lynda White, Aquatic Preserve Manager, Jon Bruckner, and Buffer Preserve Manager, Dylan Shoemaker.
Members will have the opportunity to nominate members to serve on the board.
ENJOY a chili dinner with Friends!
Bring a dish to share with others and learn about the accomplishments of 2017 and the plans for growth for 2018!
Be prepared to have a good time and meet fellow FRIENDS members!

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

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