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Free summer programs at ‘Ding’ begin Wednesday

By Staff | Jun 7, 2017

The “Family Beach Walk” takes place at Gulfside City Park on Fridays at 9 a.m. PHOTO PROVIDED

Due to federal hiring freeze and budget cuts, J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge will offer its annual free summer programs in lieu of their Nature Explorers Summer Day Camp.

The free programs at “Ding” which have been offered for over a decade, will be headed by Supervisory Refuge Ranger Toni Westland. The summer programs will last from June 7 to Aug. 5.

“These are great for families to come to,” Westland said.

Every Wednesday, at 10 a.m., during “Reading at the Refuge,” attendees have the opportunity to participate in a 45-minute reading and arts and crafts session which takes place in the Visitor & Education. The reading topic and craft is different every week.

On Thursdays, at 10 a.m. refuge naturalists lead a one-hour tour of the Indigo Trail. Along the way, attendees will learn about Sanibel’s native plants, mammals, birds and reptiles. Be sure to bring plenty of water, sunscreen and bug spray.

On Fridays at 9 a.m. Westland leads a one-hour “Family Beach Walk” which meets at Gulfside City Park. Attendees will have the opportunity to explore the refuge’s Perry Tract. Parking is $4 per hour. Be sure to bring plenty of water, sunscreen and bug spray.

Westland said one of her favorite programs is the beach walk.

“(I like it because) we’re engaging people that normally don’t know about the refuge. It’s reaching new people and then, we’ve done it for so many summers that people are coming back to it,” she said.

On Saturdays at 11 a.m. during the refuge’s “Wildlife Wonders” program education staff will lead a 30-minute presentation which touches upon manatees, alligators, crocodiles and birds in the Visitor & Education Center auditorium.The refuge has made an effort to offer programs for attendees that are looking for ways to beat the heat and for those that are seeking adventure.

“We want to offer things that are inside and outside,” Westland said.

For more information on the summer programs, call (239) 472-1100 ext. 237 or go to dingdarlingsociety.org/articles/free-refuge-programs.

In addition to the refuge’s free summer programming, Westland incorporated STAR (Summer Teachers Assisting Refuges) about six years ago to help “Ding” with visitor services. Sara Hallas, the refuge’s latest STAR teacher who began on Monday, will assist the refuge with summer campers who come to “Ding” from all over Lee County, develop curriculum and assist with library programming.

STAR is funded by the “Ding” Darling Wildlife Society.