UPDATE: ‘Ding’ Darling fully operational
Normal operations have resumed at the the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge following the three-day government shutdown.
“The refuge will fully reopen today,” Refuge Manager Paul Tritaik said today in a prepared statement.
ORIGINAL (Jan. 22, 2017)
With guidance from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel Island announced on Jan. 20 that the following message has been posted on its buildings:
“Due to the lapse in federal appropriations, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is unable fully to staff the properties under its management. It is not feasible to close or otherwise prohibit all access to National Wildlife Refuge System properties. Refuge visitors are advised to use extreme caution if choosing to enter units of the National Wildlife Refuge System, as FWS personnel will not be available to provide guidance, assistance, maintenance, or emergency response on Refuge System property. Any entry onto Refuge System property during this period of federal government shutdown is at the visitor’s sole risk. The Wildlife Drive, Indigo Trail, The Bailey Tract and Tarpon Bay Explorers will remain open.”
Chelle Koster Walton, spokeswoman for the wildlife refuge, added that the “Ding” Darling Visitor & Education Center and government offices will be closed until further notice. However, the “Ding” Darling Wildlife Society offices will be open.
As for the Tarpon Bay Explorers, all of its activities are open and available: tours, including tram, kayak, cruise and standup paddleboard; fishing charters; recreational equipment rentals, such as kayaks, standup paddleboards, pontoons and bicycles); and the nature gift shop at 900 Tarpon Bay Road.
“Refuge decision makers are allowing the concession Tarpon Bay Explorers to remain open during the government shutdown because we are not government employees,” Wendy Schnapp, with the Tarpon Bay Explorers, said in a prepared statement.
The Tarpon Bay Explorers also mans the entrance booth to Wildlife Drive, with the operating hours from 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Saturday to Thursday. The nature gift shop is open daily from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
For more information, visit www.fws.gov/refuge/jn_ding_darling.