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Friends of Myakka River


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  • March 04, 2024 11:13 AM | Friends of Myakka River (Administrator)

    Two years ago, during the 2022 Giving Challenge, we invited you to Be the One to Share Myakka’s Magic by supporting our new Outreach and Environmental Education Program.  Inspired by Sir David Attenborough, who noted that ‘no one will protect what they don’t care about and no one will care about what they’ve never experienced', we designed this program to help our community better understand the increasing challenges Myakka River State Park and its fragile ecosystems face.

    Thanks to your very generous support, we raised over $37,000 during the 2022 Giving Challenge!  Your gifts helped us continue to share Myakka’s Magic by funding a part-time position to spearhead social media, print media and in-person programming in support of the park and the Wild and Scenic Myakka River.  Because of donors like you, since the 2022 Giving Challenge, hundreds of thousands meaningfully experienced Myakka through our impactful social media posts and print media articles.  This content also increased their commitment to protecting this environmentally significant place.   And, as most individuals were experiencing Myakka’s Magic remotely, you helped us minimize potential negative impact on Myakka’s sensitive ecosystems.

    Importantly, as your gifts also allowed us to supercharge our fundraising and programming on behalf of the park, in 2023 we received a generous capacity building grant from Charles & Margery Barancik Foundation to keep this impactful momentum going!  The timely funding is helping support our organization’s first full-time staff position, our executive director Miri Hardy, who is allowing us to further increase our education efforts, outreach and membership growth.  And this would not have happened without you!

    As a result of our increased capacity, we’re also able to augment our efforts to actively protect Myakka’s Magic.  Because now more than ever, as a result of environmental changes and encroaching development, there is an urgent need to help conserve this beloved natural gem!

    To that end, we’re building relationships with organizations such as Conservation Foundation of Gulf Coast, Florida State Park Foundation, Athletic Brewing Company and William G. and Marie Selby Foundation, and securing grants to support important park initiatives, infrastructure and equipment needs.   We’re funding access to impactful nature connection programs at Myakka River State Park for at-risk youth and continuing to grow our advocacy and outreach efforts on behalf of the park and the Wild and Scenic Myakka River.

    But we can’t do it alone!

    On April 9-10, from noon to noon, we invite you to Be the One to Protect Myakka’s Magic by supporting Friends of Myakka River during the 2024 Giving Challenge.  See 

    We thank you in advance for your gifts. Together, we’re protecting and sharing Myakka’s Magic, to the benefit of future generations and our own!

    To Watch our 2024 Giving Challenge Commercial, click HERE.

    See our Giving Challenge fundraising page, click HERE.

  • February 14, 2024 2:44 PM | Friends of Myakka River (Administrator)

    Thanks to Myakka River State Park's location in a mostly rural area, the night sky remains fairly dark.  Indeed, during our Astronomy Night in the Park - the inaugural program of our new series of one off Myakka-centric experiences Experiencing Myakka's Magic - over 160 participants enjoyed being able to observe and learn about planets, galaxies, and star clusters from the Suncoast Stargazers.   This astronomy club servicing the Bradenton, Sarasota, Venice and surrounding Florida communities came out in force, bringing with them impressive state-of-the-art telescopes.

    And in an important environmental education follow up, our February Wild Florida feature in The Observer expanded on why dark skies not only delight park visitors, but are also critical for helping protect the park’s flora and fauna.  

    You can read more about the importance of dark skies, and how we can all help reduce light pollution in our article Light pollution disrupts lives of plants and animals.

  • February 05, 2024 12:22 PM | Friends of Myakka River (Administrator)

    Our new Friends of Myakka River Moon Over Myakka Sponsorship Program is supercharging the fundraising capabilities of our unique and popular concert series.  In 2024, with this new fundraising program, we raised $13,000 to directly support Myakka River State Park and the Wild and Scenic Myakka River.

    Thanks to our Moon over Myakka Sponsors, more members of our community will be able to meaningfully engage with Myakka's Magic through outreach efforts in support of Myakka River State Park and the Wild and Scenic Myakka River this year.  And our sponsors' generosity will also support important park initiatives that will help directly protect the park’s sensitive ecosystems.

    Many thanks to our 2024 Moon Over Myakka Sponsors for their support:


    J. Robert Donnelly and Mary Jane Donnelly Charitable Fund of the Community Foundation of Sarasota County


    • Elizabeth Moore
    • Beautiful Ponds


    • Lowe Morrison & Leiza Fitzgerald
    • Mark Steinwachs & Jarred Wilson


    • Bill and Janice Zoller
    • Myakka Communications

    Interested in becoming 2025 Moon Over Myakka Sponsor?  Curious to learn more about our sponsorship program benefits?  Please contact Miri Hardy.

  • January 31, 2024 6:31 AM | Friends of Myakka River (Administrator)

    We are very pleased to announce the recent appointment of Jarred Wilson to the Friends of Myakka River Board of Directors.

    Jarred's appointment reflects the board's continued commitment to sustaining our organizational growth, while substantially increasing our financial support of Myakka River State Park.

    A Manatee County native, Jarred has enjoyed Myakka River State Park since childhood.  He holds a Master’s Degree in Information Studies and has worked in various cultural heritage management and nonprofit fundraising roles.  Jarred’s interest in Myakka River State Park and the broader Myakka River includes understanding and sharing the history of the people who have lived, worked, and played on this land and water.

    "We've greatly appreciated Jarred's  meaningful contributions to our organization over the past few years in an advisory role" said President of the Board Bob Frank.  "As we continue to grow our organization and build our fundraising capabilities, in support of Myakka River State Park and the Wild and Scenic Myakka River, Jarred's enthusiasm, talents and skill-set will be an invaluable asset to our board”.

    Interested in Helping us Protect and Share Myakka's Magic?  Join us as a Board Member!

    Becoming a member of the Friends of Myakka River’s Board of Directors can be a rewarding, high impact way to get involved with a community of like-minded individuals, who are helping support and grow one of Florida's oldest, and largest state parks.

    It is also a meaningful way to apply your passion for Wild Florida, experience and expertise to help the Friends advance our mission to support Myakka River State Park and the Wild and Scenic Myakka River.

    • Curious to learn more about current initiatives where Friends of Myakka River could directly benefit from your talents and knowledge?
    • Passionate about helping us fundraise to support Myakka River State Park?
    • Ready to get involved and want to complete a Board Member application?

    Please contact Miri Hardy.

  • January 22, 2024 2:32 PM | Friends of Myakka River (Administrator)

    Photo:  Tracy Calla

    With over 120 Friends of Myakka River members and Florida Park Service staff and volunteers in attendance, it was a beautiful day to, together, celebrate Myakka's Magic during our second annual Members Event and Meeting.

    We enjoyed fun activities, fantastic music from the The Gator Ridge Ramblers (who donated their talent and time), as well as great conversations. And thanks to generous donations, silent auction bids and new memberships, together we raised nearly $3,000 to support Myakka River State Park and the Wild and Scenic Myakka River!

    This is an exciting time for our organization and we appreciated the opportunity to share with our members and guests what, together, we accomplished last year, as well as our plans for this year.

    Thanks to everyone who joined us and we hope you too had a great time!

    And a special thank you to Jean Blackburn, Rosalie Coddington, Nancy Cusack, Bob Frank, Virginia Hoffman, Hike It Florida, Rob Hurth Photography, Nancy Klein, Memphis Barbree, Steve White and Dick Pfaff for their generous donation of arts and goods to our fundraising silent auction!

    Photo:  Carol Lackey

  • January 09, 2024 10:56 AM | Friends of Myakka River (Administrator)

    Environmental interpretation helps us understand our natural world and why we should care about it. We're thrilled to share that, thanks to a $15,000 “Small and Mighty” grant from William G. and Marie Selby Foundation, along with matching funds from Friends of Myakka River, Myakka River State Park will soon be receiving a new vehicle for interpretation, figuratively and literally.   A mobile interpretive trailer to support the park’s environmental education mission!

    This “pop up” educational station, chock full of tools and activities, will be easily positioned in different areas in and outside the park, allowing for impactful interpretive interactions.   It will also provide the infrastructure the park needs for developing engaging new environmental education offerings at Myakka River State Park and beyond.

    We're extremely grateful to William G. and Marie Selby Foundation for their steadfast support of local nonprofits.

    The new interpretive trailer will be placed in high traffic areas, such as the bridge on Main Park Drive, allowing for impactful and meaningful educational opportunities.

    Photo:  Miri Hardy

  • November 10, 2023 6:07 AM | Friends of Myakka River (Administrator)

    Through programs like UF/IFAS Extension Sarasota County's impactful "Learning in Florida's Environment" (LIFE) Program, Myakka's Florida Park Service team regularly helps share Myakka's Magic with 4th and 5th grade students.  Through collaborations with community educators, students become wildlife biologists, entomologists, marine scientists, and horticulturalists for the day.  And importantly, such nature connection programs help build the foundation not only for appreciation of our precious Myakka, but for future stewardship of our public lands too.

    Unfortunately, some children don’t experience this opportunity to meaningfully connect with Myakka’s Magic, as their schools can't afford the cost of busing to the park.  Also, these programs can result in prohibitive equipment costs to Myakka River State Park.

    Thanks to funding from Friends of Myakka River, nearly 500 students from Sarasota County Title 1 schools will participate in field trips to Myakka River State Park in the 2023-24 school year.  Two of the three schools attending have never been to Myakka River State Park before.  Friends of Myakka River also funded additional microscopes and plankton nets needed for the program.

    "In a world where natural resources and time spent outdoors is increasingly limited, and screen time and physical and mental health issues are a continued challenge, LIFE provides a critical opportunity for children to have an enjoyable, hands-on educational experience in nature." said Dr. Katherine Clements of UF/IFAS Extension Sarasota County, who developed and leads the program.  "We're extremely thankful to Friends of Myakka River for removing cost as a barrier for access to this important opportunity."

    “Actively helping our youth build meaningful connections with Myakka River State Park is critical for the future protection of this important natural gem.” said Friends of Myakka River Executive Director Miri Hardy, PhD.  “We are thankful to Dr. Katherine for her important work and honored to be able to support this impactful program at Myakka River State Park, to the benefit of our youth, future generations and our own.”

    To support impactful Friends of Myakka River funding initiatives such as this one, please donate to our Giving Tuesday and Year End Appeal HERE. We thank you in advance for your gift!

    For more information on Friends of Myakka River funding initiatives, please contact Miri Hardy.

    Photo:  Miri Hardy

  • November 07, 2023 11:09 AM | Friends of Myakka River (Administrator)

    With over 37,000 acres of unique Wild Florida landscapes, waterscapes, flora and fauna, Myakka River State Park is one of Florida's oldest and largest state parks. A seven mile paved road provides access to park amenities for hundreds of thousands of visitors each year. The majority of this well-loved local gem, however, lies beyond paved roads, in Myakka’s extensive backcountry.

    Exploring Myakka’s backcountry helps cultivate a sense of nature appreciation, wonder, independence and responsibility for nature stewardship. It also helps better appreciate the increasing challenges Myakka’s fragile ecosystems and park staff face, especially in light of encroaching development. But unfortunately, most park visitors do not venture into the backcountry, largely due to a lack of clear wayfinding and trail markers.

    The lack of markers and trailhead maps represents an accessibility barrier for many visitors, who don’t feel safe, empowered or encouraged to explore the backcountry. And, some who venture out to the backcountry do indeed get lost. This results in a negative and potentially dangerous experience for visitors and creates a substantial drain on park resources. Restricted by both human resource capacity and cost, the park has not been able to take on this large but desired project.

    Thankfully, wayfinding improvements in Myakka’s backcountry are coming soon, as Friends of Myakka River, a nonprofit organization that supports Myakka River State Park and the Wild and Scenic Myakka River, was recently chosen to receive a Two for the Trails grant from Athletic Brewing Company. Named after Co-Founder and CEO Bill Shufelt's family tradition of taking two brews to toast post-trail adventures, this program donates up to $2 million annually to nonprofits working to protect protect and restore local trails, waterways, and urban greenspaces around the world.

    “Since 2018, we’ve provided essential funding to projects across 43 states, the United Kingdom, and Canada." said  Athletic Brewing Brand Manager, B Corp & Two For The Trails, Cara Wilson. "The Two For The Trails program allows us to enhance and protect the quality of outdoor spaces in the communities where our customers live, work, and adventure.”

    The $24,540 grant will be used by Friends of Myakka River to purchase and place custom trail markers in Myakka’s backcountry, as well as wayfinding trailhead kiosks.  Approximately 200 trail markers and 4 trailhead kiosks will be installed in Myakka’s backcountry as part of this impactful project, greatly enhancing accessibility to these off the beaten path areas.  And by empowering and encouraging park visitors to explore, enjoy and learn about Myakka’s magnificent and environmentally significant backcountry, this exciting project will add substantial value to our community and our environment for years to come.

    “Myakka’s backcountry offers an unparalleled and increasingly rare opportunity to experience expansive Wild Florida ecosystems” said Friends of Myakka River's Executive Director Miri Hardy. “With our newly-formed dedicated workforce of members we call 'Super Friends', who are allowing us to dream bigger and accomplish more, and Athletic Brewing’s very generous support, we’re excited to be able to take on this large and highly desired project on behalf of the park.”

    To support impactful Friends of Myakka River funding initiatives such as this one, please donate to our Giving Tuesday and Year End Appeal HERE. We thank you in advance for your gift!

    For more information about Friends of Myakka River, and to learn how you can support Myakka River State Park through service projects or in other ways, please visit or contact  Miri Hardy.

    In a recent service project, dedicated members of Friends of Myakka River supported Myakka River State Park by salvaging boards and screws from a portion of the Birdwalk damaged by Hurricane Ian.  In 2024, thanks to funds from Athletic Brewing Company and our Super Friends workforce, we'll be enhancing wayfinding in Myakka's Backcountry!

    Photo: Miri Hardy

  • October 26, 2023 12:01 PM | Friends of Myakka River (Administrator)

    Friends of Myakka River, a nonprofit organization that supports Myakka River State Park and the Wild and Scenic Myakka River, was selected by REI Sarasota as their local nonprofit partner for the store's grand opening celebration morning festivities on November 10-12, 2023 at 161 N Cattlemen Road, Sarasota.

    "REI Sarasota is thrilled to partner with Friends of Myakka River for our grand opening celebration." said REI Sarasota Store Manager Lisa Hofmeister.  "They do such incredible work to protect the magic of Myakka for our local community through outreach and inspiring environmental education programs."  She added "Myakka River State Park is cherished by locals and visitors alike, and we're proud to help preserve it for current and future generations to enjoy!"

    During the grand opening celebration REI’s doors will open at 10 a.m. on Friday, 9 a.m. on Saturday and 10 a.m. on Sunday. Giveaways will be available while supplies last. Community members who join the morning festivities, which begin an hour before the store opens, will enjoy complimentary coffee and receive an exclusive camp mug with a donation to Friends of the Myakka River.

    Special giveaways will be available in-store once doors open at 10 a.m. on Friday, 9 a.m. on Saturday and 10 a.m. on Sunday, while supplies last.

    "REI invests millions annually in hundreds of local and national nonprofits that create access to—and steward—the outdoor places that inspire us all" said Friends of Myakka River Executive Director Miri Hardy.  "We're thankful to be one of them and are gratified that our new programming resonates with our partners at REI Sarasota".

    For more information about the morning festivities, see HERE.

  • October 14, 2023 11:10 AM | Friends of Myakka River (Administrator)

    On Saturday, August 14, eight dedicated Friends of Myakka River members (aka "Super Friends") supported Myakka River State Park by digging holes and placing 32 posts to mark 8 of the many culverts on Main and North Park Drive.  The culvert marking process has been ongoing at the park. Our concentrated volunteer effort was designed to help our Myakka team by taking this job off their already busy schedules.

    Culverts are underground structures put in place to channel water under the road but can pose a potential hazard for park visitors who pull over to the side of the road without realizing that there is a culvert there. And by marking each culvert with a unique number, our work will also allow park staff, volunteers and visitors to reference a clearly identifiable landmark when needed.

    As a "Bike Myakka for Good" project, in the spirit of sustainability, and to add some fun to this project, our group traveled from culvert to culvert on bikes.  Ranger Zack Westmark supported the team's efforts with expert post hole digging and placement training, and by transporting the tools from culvert to culvert.

    If you’re a member who is Interested in supporting future special service projects like this one, please email our Executive Director Miri Hardy.

    Not a member yet? Join us NOW.

    Photo:  Ed Alaniz

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Friends of Myakka River
13208 State Road 72, Sarasota, FL 34241

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