Patuxent Hosts Birthday Fete

Wildlife Visitor Center Marks Day With Music, Hikes

Posted March 10, 2009 at 4:10pm

The Patuxent Research Refuge is celebrating a birthday. A respite from the city, the refuge will be treated to a party Saturday hosted by the National Wildlife Refuge System for its 106 years of environmental and wildlife work. The party, in addition to increasing environmental awareness, is about having fun, staff members said.

The large science and environmental education center inside the Patuxent Research Refuge at the National Wildlife Visitor Center in Laurel, Md., will be the center of this year’s celebration, which includes animals, exhibitions, nature hikes, arts and crafts, and concerts by musician Billy B.

Tram rides through part of the area’s roughly 13,000 acres will also be offered. Amy Shoop, education specialist at the refuge, said whether visitors see animals or not is “really up to if they want you to see them.—

Fox, white-tailed deer and Canada geese are among the animals found in the habitat. In addition, the visitor center displays exhibits focusing on global environmental issues, wildlife habitats and recovery efforts for endangered species, Shoop said.

Education is an important goal of the refuge. Environmental efforts made by the refuge include having educational programs at the visitor center, talking to students at nearby schools and participating in community events. “We try to make sure that we minimize the effects people have [on nature], but still enjoy the wildlife,— Shoop said.

Nell Baldacchino, visitor services manager at the Patuxent Research Refuge, said having people experience nature, and the recreation it provides, is important in order to shed light on issues that threaten the environment. She said that experience is a gateway to getting people involved in large investments as well as conserving energy and recycling.

“I think people are becoming more aware of environmental issues because they get information in the media. But we have a long way to go,— Baldacchino said.

On March 27-29, Friends of Patuxent will host the 20th annual Friend of Patuxent Wildlife Art Show and Sale at the visitor center. The show opens with a reception and an auction on March 27, where ticketholders can meet the artists and view the artwork.

“I love it! We have 40-something artists, sculptors, all kinds of painters, photographers and artisans selling nature jewelry,— Baldacchino said. The fundraiser is held by the Friends of Patuxent, a nonprofit devoted to supporting the Patuxent Research Refuge, including its research and visitor center.

Although about 100,000 people visit the refuge each year, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, an arm of the Department of the Interior, oversees the national wildlife refuges and is among other bureaus struggling with economic challenges. “We hope to get some of the stimulus money to help with maintenance backlogs and needed projects,— Baldacchino said.