May 22 event will include a variety of special activities for cyclists at the park.
A family, enjoying wild Florida, and each other's company, from the comfort of their cruiser bikes. Road riders, putting in some early morning miles on the low-traffic, scenic seven-mile paved road through the park. A photographer, scouring expansive back-country trails for wildlife. The reasons for cycling at Myakka River State Park are as varied as those who ride there. The common denominator is the natural treasure, a mere stone's throw from home.
Whether cycling for exercise, or just to get away from it all, with paved roads ambling through shady hammocks and grassy marshes, and back-country trails through dry prairies and flatwoods, Myakka is a cyclist paradise. Biking Myakka offers a safer, quieter and more picturesque option for getting in some exercise. But even if exercise is not a priority, cycling offers a great way to experience the park, with sights, smells and sounds becoming ever so much more vivid from the seat of one's bike. Without venturing off-road, wildlife and nature viewing opportunities are abundant, and it is easier and quicker to cover more ground than would be possible by foot.
Locals discovered the joys of biking Myakka in the last year. “In a typical summer, we have many international visitors in the park” Park Specialist Michelle Keirsey said. “We thought we'd be much slower than usual, due to COVID-related travel restrictions. But with everyone seeking outdoor activities, and other attractions closed, we actually saw a big increase in visitation.” And many visitors were locals, who brought their bikes.
With more bikers showing up in the park than ever before, the need for additional bike amenities quickly became apparent.
“Visitors were unloading their bikes at the park, then asking staff whether they could borrow an air pump,” Park Ranger Zack Westmark recalled with a smile. To provide this essential bike amenity, he reached out to Friends of Myakka River, a not-for-profit organization that helps support the park.
“There is a different feeling when you are surrounded only by nature...,” said Miles Millwee, President of Friends of Myakka River, who funded a new bicycle work station, recently installed in the South Pavilion parking area, as well as upgraded bike parking. “One of our goals is to get people to appreciate nature...to get more people out of vehicles and onto trails. And bicycles are a great way to do that.”
To that end, Friends of Myakka River, in collaboration with the park, are celebrating National Bike Month with a day of free, self-guided bike activities. Established in 1956, National Bike Month, held in May, aims to showcase the many benefits of bicycling, and encourage people of all ages to get out and bike. Bike Myakka! will take place from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. on May 22, and will offer three special routes, to suit all biking abilities, a Myakka-themed photo scavenger hunt with the chance to win prizes and more.
“Our Bike Myakka! Day is a great way to show off our beautiful park,” said Millwee, who himself bikes regularly at Myakka.
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