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Refuge goes Calusa next week with opening of Calusa Shell Mound Trail

By Staff | Feb 7, 2011

One of artist David Meo’s Calusa renderings on exhibit at the trail.

J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel Island celebrates the reopening of its newly upgraded Calusa Shell Mound Trail on Thursday, Feb. 17, with a reception featuring a short talk by Calusa expert Dr. Bill Marquardt from the Randell Research Center on Pine Island.

The following day, on Friday, Feb. 18, Cindy Bear, site coordinator for Randell’s Calusa Heritage Trail, will speak about Calusa culture as part of the Refuge Nature Store’s Friday Afternoon Lecture Series.

After six months and nearly $40,000 worth of work on the old Shell Mound Trail, the trail reopens with new state-of-the-art interpretative exhibits featuring Calusa renderings by local artist David Meo.

“Ding” Darling Wildlife Society-Friends of the Refuge (DDWS) and refuge staff will host the grand opening with free cake and Marquardt’s presentation starting at 3 p.m. in the Refuge Education Center.

The public may tour the trail starting 5 p.m. that afternoon and anytime thereafter. (Access to the trail and Wildlife Drive is closed on Friday.)

“The story of the Calusa people is one of an extraordinary civilization thriving along the shores of a rich and bountiful estuary over a span of centuries,” said Bear. “The Native Americans engineered a remarkable canal through Pine Island, developed a rich artistic tradition, and perplexed Spanish missionaries with their unique spirituality.”

Bear’s Calusa Legacy PowerPoint presentation begins on Friday, Feb. 18 at 1 p.m. in the “Ding” Darling Education Center. The program will provide an overview of the Calusa civilization and include information on the methods archaeologists and historians have used to piece together the story we know today.

Admission is free also to Bear’s lecture, which is sponsored by DDWS. Seating is limited and available on a first-come basis. For more information on the lecture series, call 472-1100 ext. 241 or log on to www.dingdarlingsociety.org.

Improvements to the Calusa Shell Mound Trail were made possible by charitable contributions to DDWS. A $38,000 partnership with the City of Sanibel effected the removal of exotic plants from the trail and other refuge sites:

As a non-profit 501(c)3 organization, DDWS works to support J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge’s mission of conservation, wildlife and habitat protection, research, and public education through charitable donations and Refuge Nature Shop proceeds.

To join DDWS and support the refuge, stop in at the Refuge Education Center or contact Birgie Vertesch by calling 239-292-0566 or sending an e-mail to director@dingdarlingsociety.org.