Jun 9, 2023 - News

Join the bike force at Shark Valley

The Mobile Volunteer Patrol can always use more riders. Photo: Courtesy of Natalie Guillen

First-time visitors of Shark Valley Visitor Center in Everglades National Park are usually wowed by the alligators laying around, sunning themselves like kittens just feet away — and not in cages.

What's happening: What they might not know is that the Mobile Volunteer Patrol (MVP), a group of volunteer bicyclists, is there as backup. The group rides around the park most weekends to answer questions, offer minor first aid and radio for law enforcement if needed, MVP coordinator Natalie Guillen tells Axios.

Why it matters: The park's 15-mile paved loop may pose a greater threat to visitors than the alligators, especially in summer. People can find themselves overheating or dealing with a broken bike miles away from the park entrance.

Details: Volunteer Micheal White tells Axios that MVP training covers basic first aid and bicycle repair. Volunteers then join a two-person patrol at least once per month.

What they're saying: During a normal patrol, White might suggest visitors wear bike helmets, ask them not to fly drones, or suggest they ride a tram back to the park entrance if they're struggling.

  • "We also make sure that visitors are not harassing the wildlife," White says. "You'd be surprised at how many times I have had to tell people to step away from the alligators, and no, it is not a good idea to place your 3 year old next to one for a picture! That happens at least once every patrol, if you can imagine!"

Of note: Interested in joining? Email Guillen at [email protected].

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