Friends of Myakka River
Miles has been a restaurant operator in Sarasota since 1985, having been an owner of Hillview Grill, Snook River Grill, and Madfish Grill. An original Friends board member, Bob Richardson, introduced him to this group and Miles has many fond memories of the Friends. Our founder, Dr. Mary Jelks, often would leave bags of citrus from her trees on the back step of his restaurant where they served key lime pies from her fruit for many years.Miles has enjoyed Myakka River State Park and surrounding areas encompassing the Myakka River in almost every recreational activity available: horseback riding, kayaking and canoeing, camping, mountain biking, fishing and photography. He lives nearby and comes to the Park often.
Miles leads the boards meetings and agendas in a highly-collaborative style. He considers the current board members and park staff to be friends. Miles partners with Myakka River State Park management to lead the board in setting goals and directions for the Friends. He plans and directs board meetings, overall financial matters and many of the activities of the Friends. His overriding goal is to continue in the direction that Dr. Mary and the original founders intended.
Harold has been intimately involved with Myakka River State Park for as long as he can remember. A Florida native, his father was one of our park rangers and Harold grew up living in a cabin within the park. He now lives nearby and his love for the Park is unwavering.
A career firefighter and paramedic in Sarasota County, Harold’s latter years were spent directing rural operations. He was the park’s liaison to the fire department for controlled burns and he brought over their aerial platform to make exact measurements necessary to establish the canopy walkway.
The depth of Harold’s lifelong personal knowledge of the history of Myakka River State Park serves as a treasure trove during board meetings. Having been part of this board for the better part of a decade, he asks probing questions always with an eye to ensuring wise use of resources. Harold pitches in with a variety of Friends’ activities and specifically wants to continue to build fundraising efforts so the Friends may continue to provide ongoing support for many projects for the park.
Secretary & Treasurer
Sandra has taken advantage of almost everything Myakka River State Park has to offer. She has paddled with the gators and biked and hiked the many miles of trails. It is her “happy place” where she finds solace and peace.
During her active working career, Sandra was the contract administrator for a ship-owning company. Upon retirement, she became a founding member of a local watershed group whose mission was pollution abatement.
Having been Treasurer of the Friends since October 2017, Sandra participates widely in the discussions and operations of the Friends. Her goal is to have the board focus on a wider variety of different fund-raising programs.
Steve and his native-Sarasota wife have been volunteering within Myakka River State Park for about 15 years, with a special focus on removal of exotic plants. Most of that work is done on horseback and even Steve’s horse has his 500 volunteer hours pin!
Steve is a lawyer, having retired as the Chief Assistant Public Defender of Manatee County where he ran the office and tried death penalty cases. His wife, Jean Blackburn, was on the board of the Friends for many years and Steve replaced her on this board when she retired.
With his legal background, Steve has helped with rewriting the bylaws and with negotiations with the county building department and state government. He is particularly interested in developing some activities to get park visitors out into the back country of the park.
Dick is an avid kayaker and photographer. A certified professional kayak instructor and tour guide, he voluntarily led tours on the river at all times of day and night generating contributions to the Friends. As a commercial photographer, he has enjoyed freelancing within the park. He feels “so very fortunate to have an awesome connection with Myakka River State Park.”
Dick spent about thirty years in the automotive parts and service business, primarily with car dealerships. This knowledge along with some background in construction has served the board well during their deliberations.
Dick joined the board about a decade ago and wants to build the endowment fund because there generally are shortages in park budgets and he wants to be sure the Friends are there to help.
Dr. Wendy is a veterinarian with a master’s degree in Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine. Her holistic house call practice in Sarasota is very close to Myakka River State Park where she lives on a farm with horses, dogs, goats and a flock of chickens, ducks and geese. As co-host of a radio show with a focus on horse carriage driving, she leads the Holistic Veterinary segment.
At Myakka River State Park, Wendy enjoys horseback riding on the trails, kayaking the river, and bringing visitors to enjoy its many wonders. She particularly enjoys showing off the Canopy Walk and gators from the bridge on Park Drive.
Wendy joined the board of the Friends in the spring of 2021. She hopes to encourage more horseback riding in the park, help revitalize the trails, and influence state agencies to make the bicycle lanes along State Road 72 to the Park safer.
Join Our Board
Becoming a member of the Friends of Myakka River’s board can be a meaningful way to apply your experience and expertise to help the Friends advance their mission.
Serving on the board can be a rewarding, high impact way to get involved and learn new skills and develop new relationships.
Interested in learning more, contact firstname.lastname@example.org .