Myakka River, Florida

Completed: Additional Funding Required

Myakka River State Park, Sarasota, Florida

Height: 92 feet (tower)  |  Length: 100 feet  |  Built: 2000 |  Engineering firm: Phoenix Design, NC

Threat/Opportunity:

  • Florida has experienced extreme deforestation due to development, roads, and other tourist destinations.
  • Create North America’s first public canopy walkway to enhance educational opportunities within Myakka River State Park.
  • Devise a way to meet Park Department ADA requirements.

Solution:

  • Established partnership team of Florida Park Service, Friends of Myakka River, the TREE Foundation, and local sponsors to raise $170,000.
  • Worked with ADA representatives to plan alternative, on-site experience, including live webcam/kiosk for a “virtual” walk.

Results:

  • Myakka attracts 500,000+ visitors per year and was the first public canopy walkway in North America!
  • Walkway generates $24 million in ecotourism revenue for Sarasota County.
  • 27 paid park staff, roughly 50 seasonal volunteer staff, and about 30 concessionaire staff work at the state park.
  • Invasive weevil species that was decimating air plants discovered by local elementary school children.
  • Myakka model copied in Ohio, New York, Vermont, and California – with additional walkways in planning stages.
  • Excitement and support of Walkway and environmental science programs led to local sponsorship of a “trip-of-a-lifetime” to the Amazon Walkway for 25 underserved high school students from the local Boys & Girls Club.
  • 100s of field trips for local schools over the past 20 years; frequent guided walks of the canopy hosted by CanopyMeg, sometimes attracting up to 300 attendees!
  • Research opportunities and grants for New College (local higher education institution) science students, including a Community Foundation grant of $15,000 written by the students to train middle school teachers in canopy biology.

Broader Impact/Next Steps:

  • Considered the “ambassador” or model walkway upon which future global MISSION GREEN walkways will be built.
  • Needs additional signage.
  • ADA kiosk needs to be funded and built.

Myakka River: a Biodiversity "Hot Spot"

The Myakka River (a name derived from a Native-American word for “Big Waters”) has been a rich, diverse, and important ecosystem since shortly after the subsiding seas exposed peninsular Florida and the Myakka River valley at the end of the Pleistocene Period, approximately 10,000 years ago. The southerly location, abundant natural resources, and high annual rainfall contribute to the development of a complex association of flora and fauna.

What is a "Hot Spot"?

A “Hot Spot” is a forest habitat of high biodiversity and critical environmental importance. Unfortunately, many of these ecosystems are threatened by habitat destruction, climate change, and other factors. MISSION GREEN believes that these areas could significantly benefit from a canopy walkway conservation program.

MISSION GREEN Global "Hot Spots"

Canopy Walkways and Walkway Prospect Locations

1. Amazonian Peru (1994)

2. Myakka River State Park, Florida (2000)

3. The Habitat Penang Hill, Malaysia (2017) – Built and Funded!

4. Sequoia Park Zoo, Eureka, California (2021) – Built and Funded!

5. Ranomafana State Park, Madagascar

6. Gorongosa National Park, Mozambique

7. Western Ghats, India

8. Royal Manas National Park, Bhutan

9. Baiyer River Rainforest Reserve, Papua New Guinea

10. TBD

11. TBD

12. TBD