From its creation in 2003, the Friends of St. Joseph Bay Preserves has performed to a succinct motto. “People must be stakeholders in the land,” founding members said as a mission statement.

From its creation in 2003, the Friends of St. Joseph Bay Preserves has performed to a succinct motto.

“People must be stakeholders in the land,” founding members said as a mission statement.

To promote the Preserves, to create more stakeholders and increase membership the Friends will hold Bay Day this weekend, with the event kicking off Friday with an astronomy walk and continuing through Saturday with tours, music and food.

Bay Day events begin 7 p.m. ET Oct. 4 with an Astronomy Walk & Talk lead by Dr. Cliff Harris from Gulf Coast State College. Walking in the preserve you will get a feel for just how large our solar system is and have fun observing the stars and night sky.

A Low Country Boil will be held from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. ET and the menu includes boiled shrimp, sausage, potatoes, corn on the cob, Cole slaw, garlic bread and beverages.

A $10 donation is asked per meal.

During the February Bay Day 458 plates of shrimp boil were sold, representing a major fundraiser for the Friends.

New this Bay Day is a Kayak Adventure lead by Kim Wren, former Aquatic Preserve Manager and now Stewardship Manager at the Apalachicola National Estuarine Research Reserve in Eastpoint. There are a limited number of spaces available so come out on Oct. 5 and sign up for the adventure. Happy Ours Kayak and Kike Outpost is sponsoring the Kayak Adventures.

Ten years after its creation the Friends group remains a vibrant and active group working with the preserve staff to keep St. Joseph Bay, one of Florida’s 41 aquatic preserves, pristine while assisting with work on the uplands when called.

“If you are not familiar with the Buffer Preserve or the Aquatic Preserve stop in for a visit at the Preserve Welcome Center and learn how the Buffer Preserve helps to protect the bay through a natural filtration of the water as it descends to the bay via the watershed,” said Sandra Chafin, on staff at the Buffer Preserves. “St. Joseph Bay is one of the most pristine bays on the Gulf of Mexico and the goal is to keep it that way.”

The Preserves Center is also a mecca for scientists and researchers.

Since January there have been almost 20 groups of students and professors staying at the Preserve. They have come from South Dakota, Wayne State College in Nebraska, Creighton University in Omaha and colleges from Missouri, Illinois to those close to home such as Florida, Louisiana and Tennessee.

“A student from Puerto Rico and one from Nova Scotia have called the Buffer Preserve home in 2013,” Chafin noted.

The Friends group, a non-profit supporting the missions of the Preserves, has exploded since its creation.

Membership is now over 200 and still growing, Chafin said. A new Preserve manager, Dylan Shoemaker, is also on board.

“The Friends need your help and support in order to continue working to make the Preserves the best they can be and provide a place of enjoyment and learning for the public,” Chafin said. “Dylan arrived in January and has made a substantial impact at the Buffer Preserve.

“A new Aquatic Preserve manager is expected to join the crew before long to further promote the ongoing positive relationship between the uplands and the bay.”

St. Joseph Bay State Buffer Preserve is located on State Road 30-A at Simmons Bayou. St. Joseph Bay Aquatic Preserve encompasses 73,000 submerged acres in the bay and gulf. The Friends group work to help both hence they are Friends of the Preserves while each of the preserve are a separate entity.

The Aquatic Preserve has not been funded through the state so a group of dedicated volunteers sample the water and use a transect to observe the sea grass to ensure the pristine condition of the water and sea grass for all living in the bay.

Plants are a major area of study on the Buffer Preserve. The preserve’s crop of Chapman’s rhododendrons is the largest population of its kind on public lands. Other federally or state threatened or endangered plant populations are observed and conditions created that encourage their growth.

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Schedule of events


Astronomy walk, 7 p.m. ET


Tour the Preserves – 10-11:30 a.m.; 12-1:30 p.m.; 2-3:30 p.m. ET

Enjoy a trip through the backwoods trails of the Buffer Preserve to find rare and endangered plants, prescribed burn sites and various native plants.

There will be trips to learn about shore birds, shoreline of the Bay, adventures with kayaks.

Schedule and information at

Sunset cruise, 5 p.m. – tickets sold Oct. 1-5, first-come, first-served.

Call 229-1787 to register.

All trips are subject to change without notice (highly unlikely). No rain dates.