Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge manager Curt McCasland announced today that the Richard S. Bolt Visitor Center will close two days a week during the slower seasons of the year.
The visitor center, located inside the east entrance of the refuge, will be open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday through Monday from July 17–August 31 and December–January. The visitor center will be open seven days a week the rest of the year. The goal with this modification of hours is to allow staff to both recover from drought and fire while also focusing on developing quality programs at the Visitor Center.
Over the past year, Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge has been reacting to numerous events such as drought, fire, tropical storms, and the loss of several positions.
“The Honey Prairie Fire burned the boardwalk and several of our structures within the swamp,” McCasland said. “The fire swept across many of our canoe trails leaving numerous sections impassible due to dead standing trees and trees that have fallen across our trails. In addition to fire, 18 months of low water within our trail system precluded much needed maintenance activities, resulting in vegetation choking many of the waterways not impacted by fire. These events and subsequent maintenance needs to repair, restore, and or maintain these services have significantly affected the quality and quantity of visitor services we can currently offer.”
When the visitor center is closed, visitors will still have the opportunity to go on boat tours or rent canoes or kayaks from Okefenokee Adventures. The Longleaf Pine, Canal Diggers, Cane Pole, Deer Stand, and Homestead Trails are currently open for hiking. Swamp Island Drive is open for driving or biking. The canoe trails will be opened as trees and vegetation are removed from the trails. The boardwalk is currently scheduled to be reopened by May, 2013.
The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit www.fws.gov.
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