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Friends of Myakka River

our team:

Miri Hardy, PhD

Executive Director

With over 25 years of academic and global business experience, Miri brings an extensive background in strategic planning, marketing and education to Friends of Myakka River.  Miri holds a doctorate in social psychology from Washington University in St. Louis.  

In 2021, in an important first step towards making FOMR a stronger and more successful organization, the Board of Directors first hired Miri to explore opportunities for our organization to achieve a new level of impact, especially in the areas of fundraising, outreach, community engagement and environmental education.  Due to the success of these initial efforts, as Friends of Myakka River's first Executive Director, Miri is working with the board to continue to grow Friends of Myakka River's environmental education and community outreach impact, while increasing financial support of Myakka River State Park.

A Sarasota resident since 2014, Miri is happiest exploring wild Florida, often on her bike, and capturing its beauty with her camera.  She is especially partial to those off the beaten track backcountry trails and has recently rediscovered the joys of climbing trees.

To learn more about current Friends of Myakka River initiatives and programs, as well as opportunities to support Friends of Myakka River and Myakka River State Park, please contact Miri.


Board of Directors

Bob Frank, PhD


Bob has been visiting Myakka River State Park for over 25 years. He has hiked and biked the park’s many trails, but his first love is the park’s wildlife. “This is my Serengeti. I can come here any day of the week and know I will see something special. This is one of the must-do places we bring friends and family when they visit.”

During his working years, Bob was a professor and dean at several universities in Ohio. He is trained as neuroscientist and conducted research in the areas of drug abuse and human taste and smell perception. He retired several years ago and moved to Osprey, allowing him to visit the park more frequently. In addition to serving on the Board of the Friends of Myakka River, Bob is chair of his community’s Ponds and Preserves Committee. In his spare time, he and his wife Allie enjoy wildlife photography, cycling and summer trips in their travel trailer.

Bob is particularly interested in protecting the natural assets of the park so that they can be enjoyed by future generations.

Steven Schaefer

Vice President

Steven and his native-Sarasota wife have been volunteering at Myakka River State Park for about 15 years, with a special focus on exotic plant removal.  Most of that work is done on horseback and even Steven’s horse has his 500 volunteer hours pin! 

Steven 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, Steven 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. 

Sandy Plette

Secretary & Treasurer

Combining her two passions, being in nature and being of service to others, Sandy and her husband, Andre’, both have volunteered with Myakka River State Park for the last five years.  Sandy supports various visitor service and administrative roles within the Park and has served as an active volunteer consultant to the Board of Directors of The Friends.  

Having retired to Florida from Maine where she continues to spend her summer months, Sandy’s professional career included tenures as an insurance company executive specializing in investments and finance as well as a practice administrator for a group of physicians.  In addition, she served in various positions on several boards of directors for charitable organizations in Maine.  

At Myakka River State Park, Sandy enjoys walking the trails, gazing at the alligators and birds, encountering occasional deer along her way and myriad sights, sounds, and smells of nature.  She looks forward to supporting The Friends’ efforts wisely to deploy the funds with which our donors entrust us.

Stacey Mazza-Gilkison

Board Member

A Sarasota native, Stacey Mazza-Gilkison has been visiting Myakka River State Park for over 47 years.  She fondly recalls visiting the park as a child with her oldest sister on a school project, observing and documenting the foraging habits of ibises and egrets.  Stacey and her husband Mike became members in 2021 at our inaugural Bike Myakka event.  They live and operate a small business in Myakka City, where they also foster senior dogs and add them to their growing dachshund pack.

Driven by her strong desire to preserve our park while helping others understand the importance of protecting our fragile environment, Stacey, who is an avid animal rights activist, actively supported our new Outreach and Environmental Education Program since its inception.  As a board member, she strives to further advance our strategic priorities, especially as they relate to direct partnerships with our community at large. 

In her spare time, Stacey enjoys running & biking, volunteering for various environmental & animal rights organizations, being out in nature, and relaxing with her husband and their dogs. 

Jarred Wilson

Board Member

Jarred Wilson is a Manatee County native who 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. Outside of work he spends his time traveling, biking, and volunteering. He also focuses on building his postcard collection, whose strength is in early twentieth century Sarasota.

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.

Help 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?  

Ready to get involved and want to fill out a Board Member application?

Please contact Miri Hardy.


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

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