Refuge celebrates 40 years

Published 10:29 pm Thursday, October 9, 2014

The Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge celebrates its 40th anniversary this week, beginning with a bevy of activities, tours and educational displays at an open house at the refuge headquarters on Sunday.

“We are celebrating the establishment of the refuge,” said Deloras Freeman, visitor services specialist at the refuge. “It has a lot of significance to a lot of people in Suffolk, because it was Union Camp Corporation that donated the first 49,000 acres that established the refuge.”

That land was donated to the Nature Conservancy and then conveyed to the U.S. Department of the Interior. The refuge was established in 1974.

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Events this Sunday, which all take place at or leave from the refuge headquarters at 3100 Desert Road, include information about the management activities at the refuge, bus tours to Lake Drummond and motorboat tours on Lake Drummond, crafts for children, simple archery lessons, an art exhibit and more.

“We want people to know what it is we do here,” Freeman said. “We want people to understand why we’re here and what it is we do and why it’s important.”

The refuge’s forestry, hydrology, fire and biology departments each will have presentations about what they do throughout the year to keep the swamp a viable habitat for plants and animals.

There are no fees for any of the activities, but reservations are required for the tours. Freeman said a standby list will be created in case any people with reserved spots don’t show, and some extra tours have been added to accommodate as many people as possible.

Children’s activities include making hummingbird feeders and other crafts, as well as identifying animal tracks and making casts of them.

The full program goes from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday. The art exhibit, “Fire and Water,” focusing on the three-year span between the refuge’s two massive wildfires in 2008 and 2011, will be on display during that time.

At 10 and 11 a.m. as well as 2 and 3 p.m., motorboat tours on Lake Drummond will leave. From 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on the hour, archery point and shoot lessons will take place.

The nature crafts will be available from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. At 11 a.m. and 1:30 p.m., the narrated bus tours to Lake Drummond will leave.

At 1:30 p.m., a presentation for the children’s art contest will take place.

The fun continues on Thursday, Oct. 16, when another guided bus tour to Lake Drummond will leave at 9:30 a.m., and on Friday, Oct. 17, with an owl prowl meeting at the Washington Ditch area at 6:30 p.m.

For more information about the events, or to reserve a spot, call 986-3705.