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 friendsofmyakkariver.org 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