By Ali Renckens
Sharon Flack, current president of Friends of the Alafia and avid equestrian (or “horse person” as she affectionately terms it) enjoyed riding at Alafia River State Park, but thought that it needed a stall for horses.
“Connie Boyette [Vice President of Friends of the Alafia] and I wanted funding for the barn and we needed a secure location to keep the money in, so we were encouraged to start Friends of the Alafia so money could be put in our non-profit account and be safe from any misuse,” said Flack.
The project was a success; a 12-horse stall now stands at the park and Friends of the Alafia continues to thrive. The group fundraises, writes grants for park projects, buys machinery and supplies for educational programs and helps maintain the park.
“To create community awareness of the park, we host events to encourage people to come see our park and see how wonderful it is,” Flack said.
“I like the location because it’s convenient to the Tampa Bay area and you really do feel like you’re really out in Florida. Within a few minutes, you can get there and be out in the woods,” Flack said.
The Alafia River State Park, built over a former phosphate mine, has a rugged terrain that is difficult to find in Florida, making it an ideal spot for cyclers, equestrians and hikers.
“I’m a horse person, but I’ve ridden the Alafia mountain bike trails and if I can do it, anybody can do it,” said Flack.
The park boasts 17 miles of bike trails with varying levels of difficulty. Other recreation includes bird-watching, canoeing, fishing and picnicking. The park also offers several educational programs and nature walks.
To volunteer for an event or join Friends of the Alafia, call Flack at (352)232-0083. For more information on events or to volunteer, visit www.friendsofalafia.com. A $20 membership fee is required, which will go to support the park.