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It’s “Great Outdoors Month” . . . Let’s get outside and enjoy nature!

Sandra Chafin St. Joseph Bay Buffer Preserve Special to The Star
The Star

So, you want to get outdoors and explore nature after being cooped up inside, well, now’s the time.

Where should you start?

How about the St. Joseph Bay State Buffer Preserve?

There are trails to hike and roads to bike. While the Visitor Center is still closed the trails have been opened. Continue to follow safe practices, keep your groups small and observe social distancing. Some believe the fresh air and sunshine will help to ward off any viruses that might be lurking around!

Even if you have lived in the area for a long time you might have missed the trails. Now would be a good time to take the opportunity to visit the preserve. TRAM Tours will begin when it is feasible however, in the meantime come on out and get your taste of nature. It will do you good.

Did you know there are fourteen miles of trails on the preserve to traverse and marvel in?

A good place to begin is the main gate just across from the Welcome Center at 3915 State Road 30-A, Port St. Joe.

You will notice the wooden archway and see the gate which is on Treasure Road. There is parking before the gate and when you start your hike/walk you just step around the locked gate. You will see where many people have gone before you and enjoyed seeing unspoiled nature at its finest. There is a newly renovated gazebo where you may rest or change shoes or boots in the parking area.

Treasure Road is the main road into the heart of the preserve. If you walk the entire length of Treasure Road you will have covered approximately three miles into the uplands. There are no motorized vehicles allowed so you must return the three miles back. You will notice signs denoting trails along the way. We will get back to those later since you will probably want to explore those another time. Old Shell Road and part of Treasure Road are part of the old roadbed from Apalachicola to St. Joseph.

That’s right, roadbeds front the 1800’s in the preserve. If the trees could only talk!

In traversing Treasure Road, you will observe areas where there have been prescribed burns performed. Prescribed burning is necessary for the health of the preserve, its neighbors, and those plants and animals living in the preserve. While burning might seem bad, there are good burns. Certain pines, rare plants, and many animals thrive from the efforts of burning. Zones are burned on a rotation schedule so you will see different stages of burns as you walk.

Hurricane Michael caused a lot of destruction and it has taken an enormous amount of effort to clear the preserve. Fifty-eight tons of debris, hazardous debris that is, were removed from the preserve by professionals. Board volunteers and others removed an awful lot of non-hazardous materials.

Guidelines are posted at each gate in kiosks and must be followed when visiting the preserve. The trails are to be enjoyed from sunrise to sunset and dogs must be on a leash. Preserve Manager, Dylan Shoemaker wants you to experience the “Great Outdoors” and truly enjoy nature!

“Our trails are the perfect place to amble along and notice the trees, flowers, low-water crossings, and sometimes you might see a deer, tortoise, or other animal. Stands of long leaf old growth pines have disappeared in so many areas and here on the preserve you have the opportunity to see these majestic trees. Take the time and enjoy nature at its finest!”

Friends of St. Joseph Bay Preserves provide the brochures for you to see where you are going and plan what your next adventure will be. Friends of the Preserves invite you to become a member and join them as they work to: Restore the land, Protect the Water and Preserve the Future. Call 229-1787 if you have questions about the Friends organization or about the various trails.

If it has been raining a lot, you will need waterproof boots to go through the low water crossings. You will want to wear closed-toe shoes, bring water, a hat and phone. Let’s celebrate the month of June and Explore the Great Outdoors! Escape the indoors for an adventure right in your own backyard: St. Joseph Bay State Buffer Preserve is located at 3915 State Road 30A in Port St. Joe.