By Jack Kelly
Installation of new exhibits at the Sachuest Point National Wildlife Refuge Visitors’ Center is nearing completion. On Friday, Aug. 24, the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service will host a grand opening from noon-5p.m. A dedication ceremony will be held at 2 p.m., and U.S. Senator Jack Reed will be the keynote speaker.
The day’s events will include activities for both children and adults. Charles Vandemoer, Refuge explained, “We want this to be a big celebration because many people have worked very hard to see this project become reality. We hope everyone will join us, because this belongs to the people and especially the people of Aquidneck Island. We are deeply appreciative for the support and funding we received from the Friends of the National Wildlife Refuges of R.I. for this project, and we look forward to their support for other projects in the future.”
The new displays which are similar to those in the award-winning Kettle Pond Visitors’ Center in Charlestown, R.I., showcase the wildlife, habitats, plants, and history of Sachuest Point. Janis Nepshinsky, visitor services manager said, “The center will become a destination for the public, teachers and class trips from local school systems. It will assist educators in teaching about the environment, ecology and other sciences.”
Sarah Lang, volunteer coordinator said, “We will have guided bird walks, habitat tours, children’s activities, including Animal Olympics, and seining on the beach. (Seining involves using a large net to capture marine life to observe, identify and release back into the water, so that children and adults can see what lives in local waters.)
Staff will also conduct clinics on fire prevention and wildlife law enforcement.” Lang continued, “Save the Bay will provide its mobile touch tanks and exploration personnel to explain the life cycles of marine species. Door prizes will be awarded and we will have much for them to do and see. Our staff members and volunteers will be available to assist with visitors’ questions and needs.”
One of the highlights of the opening, especially for local wildlife photographers, will be guided tours of the photography blind in the salt marsh area adjacent to Third Beach. The blind will be open just in time for fall migration.
Another highlight of the celebration is Horizon Wings, a wildlife rehabilitation organization from Ashford, Conn., will be presenting live birds of prey. They are widely known for their work with injured raptors. Previous demonstrations have included live birds such as Bald Eagle, Great Horned Owl, Peregrine Falcon, Red - tailed Hawk, Barn Owl and other birds of prey.
While the majority of the funding for the Sachuest Point project came from a federal transportation funds grant, the Friends of the National Wildlife Refuges of R.I. contributed more than $22,000 toward the new exhibits. The Friends have designated $5,000 to match public donations in support of the new exhibits. All donations made through the end of September will be matched one-to-one. For more information go to: www.friendsnwrofRI.org