By Danielle Ozbat
People of different ages and sizes braved the heat Saturday morning and ventured out to Fall Field Day at Presquile National Wildlife Refuge. Visitors were able to tour the 1,329-acre island refuge, its native plants and animals, and the energy-efficient facilities of The James River Ecology School. The wildlife refuge offered a myriad of activities including an Audubon guided tour, wetland canoe trips, a butterfly exploration hike, and a self-guided nature trail.
One of the Presquile visitors making use of the nature trail was Scott Nesta. Nesta, who was there with with his family, found out about field day from his friends.
“We … thought it’d be something fun to do as a family, just to get outside and enjoy the nature of the area,” Nesta said.
Like Nesta, Jacqueline Sears, who attended with her husband and children, was also there to experience what Presquile had to offer. Sears and her family stopped in the Menenak Discovery Center to eat before heading off to the trails and canoeing.
“[It was] an opportunity to see a part of the James that we’ve never seen before … we’re just excited to see something new,” Sears said.Presquile visitors are shuttled to the island on a brief boat ride and after a short walk are greeted by the Menenak (Menenak means island in Algonquian) Discovery Center.
“About four years ago, we [converted an old building, which used to be a manager’s house] into an interpretive center and the Menenak Discovery Center,” Cyrus Brame said, “so when we did the renovation on that, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service spent a good amount of money on converting it so that it can be used for environmental education [and] interpretation [and to] promote the history and the purpose of the wildlife refuge.”
Brame, the wildlife refuge specialist at Presquile National Wildlife Refuge and the US Fish & Wildlife Service, said they used sustainable materials on the center, and it is powered by solar panels, which results in a $6 electric bill each month. The center boasts a fully functional kitchen, air conditioning and heating, and solar paneled hot water heaters.
The center also houses interpretive materials and displays and provides information about the James River Ecology School, which was created in 2007 and has been improved upon in the last four years. The ecology school is a partnership with the James River Association, the Watershed Organization, and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, and it is an opportunity for students to get a connection with the outdoors and get in touch with their natural side. There is also a bunkhouse that houses 30 students and is available for overnight trips.
For Brame, it is rewarding to see visitors explore Presquile and learn more about the wildlife refuge.