Friends of Alafia, Inc. was recently awarded a $5,000 grant from REI Co-op to be used toward the cost of building a mountain bike skills area where riders can improve their skills of balance, riding off drops and jumping.
Friends of Alafia is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit and Citizen Support Organization—governed by Section 258.015, Florida Statutes—established to protect, preserve and support Alafia River State Park in providing resource-based recreational opportunities to the public. Friends of Alafia raises funds and provides volunteer services to improve patrons’ enjoyment of the park.
“In particular, we look out for the needs of mountain bikers, equestrians and hikers/runners using the park by supporting construction and maintenance of the miles of trails within the park,” said LeRoy Dennison, president of Friends of Alafia.
Alafia River State Park, located at 14326 S. County Rd. 39 in Lithia, has approximately 25 miles of equestrian trails that can also be hiked or run on, 20 miles of mountain bike trails covering all skill levels (beginner, intermediate, advanced and expert) along with several miles of hiking-only trails.
The park’s 7,714 acres were donated to the state in 1996 by Cytec Industries. The former phosphate mine was called Lonesome Mine, named after the nearby community of Fort Lonesome, a site which was a frontier outpost of the U.S. Army during the Third Seminole War. The mine altered the landscape and created new landforms, such as several small lakes and steep grades, popular with mountain bikers who enjoy challenging trails, as well as equestrians and hikers.
A forest bordering the South Prong of the Alafia River was protected from mining. This prong of the river is a blackwater stream that flows through the park. The stream, bordered by red maple, swamp tupelo, and water hickory trees, is ideal for canoeing, kayaking and fishing. The campground features some equestrian sites for keeping horses on-site, plus it has a barn and paddocks.
As a member-owned co-op, REI actively works with nonprofits across the country to steward and maintain local trails and public lands and connect people to the outdoors. To learn more about REI’s investment, visit www.rei.com/h/philanthropy. REI also opened a new store at 1152 Assembly Dr. in Tampa last month.