Wonderful walk on the wildlife side at Pelican Island fete

Paul Weigand as Pres. Roosevelt, Wayne Kroegel and Ted Roosevelt IV. PHOTO BY JOSHUA KODIS

In addition to the birds that call it home, visitors flocked to the Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge, the nation’s very first wildlife refuge, during its 121st Anniversary Celebration. The event was hosted by the Pelican Island Conservation Society, the friends group for the refuge, whose mission is to promote its awareness, conservation, stewardship and use.

In 1903, President Theodore Roosevelt signed an executive order to establish the refuge to protect the nesting habitat of brown pelicans and other wading birds. Today, the roughly 3-acre island and its surrounding 5,400 acres of protected waters and land is home to more than 130 species who feed, nest and roost there.

The weekend festivities kicked off with ‘An Evening with Theodore Roosevelt,’ a picnic supper at the Environmental Learning Center. Descendants of the key players, including Ted Roosevelt IV, the president’s great-grandson, and members of the Kroegel family, whose ancestor, Paul Kroegel was the country’s first refuge warden, were on hand to share details of their families’ legacies, and reenactor Joe Wiegand brought history to life in his role as Roosevelt.

On Saturday and Sunday, folks viewed nature-centric demonstrations and displays before strolling along the Centennial Trail Boardwalk, which is lined with planks chronicling the progression of the country’s other refuges. Still others enjoyed a sunset cruise around Pelican Island to view the birds as they flew home to roost for the night.

For more information, visit FirstRefuge.org.

Photos by Joshua Kodis

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