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

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, create more stakeholders and increase membership the Friends will hold Bay Day this Saturday, with tours of the preserve and its natural beauty, music and food.

The first trip begins with a Bird Walk through the Deal Tract on Cape San Blas. Led by Matt Anderson with the Apalachicola National Estuarine Research Reserve, the walking tour begins at the Preserve Lodge.

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 last year’s February Bay Day 458 plates of shrimp boil were sold, representing a major fundraiser for the Friends.

Other tours include “Deal Tract Adventure” with Kim Wren, aquatic preserve coordinator, who will feature the history of the land and the importance of the uplands in protecting the quality and natural resources of the bay.

This tour includes a moderate one-mile hike and participants are urged to dress appropriately and bring bug spray and water, as well as proper footwear.

Jason Garwood will lead “Explore the Shore of St. Joseph Bay” which will begin at Eagle Harbor at St. Joseph Peninsula State Park, with wading and hands-on activities.

Be prepared to get wet and bring bug spray, sunscreen, a change of clothes, towel, field glasses, camera and hat.  

Preserve manager Dylan Shoemaker will lead a backwoods tour of the buffer preserve. This is a riding trip into the 5,000 acre preserve with short walking intervals.

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, preserve secretary. “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.

In the past year, more than 20 groups of students and professors have stayed 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.

“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 last year and has made a substantial impact at the Buffer Preserve.”

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.



Tours and trips of the Preserves – 9:30-11 a.m.; 10-11:30 a.m.; 12-1:30 p.m.; 2-3:30 p.m. ET

Enjoy a bird walk on the Deal Tract; a tram riding tour through the backwoods; a Deal Tract adventure; or explore the shore of St. Joseph Bay.

Schedule and information at

Call 229-1787 to register.

All trips are weather permitting