On Wednesday, March 14, US Fish and Wildlife Service’s Florida Keys National Wildlife Refuges Complex and their Friends group Florida Keys Wildlife Society invite the public to a special opening reception and photography contest exhibit installation from 5:30pm -7:30pm at the new National Key Deer Refuge Nature Center located at 30587 Overseas Highway in Big Pine Key. The exhibit and center sneak-peek celebration are part of the third annual Outdoor Fest, an event created to help people recognize the refuges as safe havens for the creatures who live in them while also educating them on how to enjoy the areas in wildlife-friendly ways.
“We are hoping the new Nature Center will be as much of an asset to the local community as it is to visitors,” says Refuge Ranger and Outreach Coordinator Kristie Killam.
The evening celebrates the developing new center and participants of this year’s photography contest while kicking off Outdoor Fest events held in National Key Deer Refuge, a week-long festival set for Saturday, March 10th through Saturday, March 17h featuring expert-guided birding, nature walks, kayaking; evening wildlife programs; nature sketching, nature photography workshops and a photo contest; two family-fun wildlife fairs; and the 4th Annual Run with Deer 5K in Big Pine Key. Refuge staff and members of their Friends group will be on hand to answer questions and take registrations for the event’s various excursions and workshops, most of which are free.
Though the 1,840-square-foot building itself was finished in February, the rest remains a work in progress: indoor and outdoor exhibits, interpretive panels, parking lot, public restroom, nature trail boardwalk, and landscaping are still underway. The center, which will include a display area and book store, two offices, and possible classroom space for schools, is expected to open Fall 2018, with the goal of providing a refuge complex “hub” for locals and visitors of the National Key Deer Refuge, which surrounds the center.
“Imagine it as a place where you can immerse yourself in the amazing diversity of the Florida Keys wildlife and habitats, learning, exploring, and having fun at the same time,” says Killam.
The photo installation is one such way of doing so. Over 40 people entered the free-entry amateur photography contest aimed to celebrate the four refuges. All entries- more than 100 – of the “Landscape,” “Birds,” “Key deer,” and “Other Nature/Wildlife” categories in both adult and children divisions will be on display during the exhibit that extends until June.
To learn more about Florida Keys Wildlife Society or to register for upcoming Outdoor Fest events, visit floridakeyswildlifesociety.org, stop in at the visitor center on Big Pine Key or follow them on Facebook. For more information contact Refuge Ranger Kristie Killam at 305.304.9625, or email Nancy or Jan at firstname.lastname@example.org . Brought to you in part by the Monroe County Tourist Development Council.