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Cedar Keys National Wildlife Refuge is feeling the crunch of the sequestration in a variety of ways; therefore management has to make tough decisions. Conservation of habitat and public lands is vitally important to the mission of the US Fish and Wildlife Service. As a result, a new boardwalk has been constructed on Atsena Otie in order to protect the ancient midden side of the island from even more erosion.
Thirty-five feet of land mass has eroded away since 2002, dropping the ruins of Faber Mill onto the beach. Many measures have been taken to stop visitors from climbing onto the dock from the beach to no avail; more erosion is the result. Three years ago, a trail was constructed along the island’s edge to provide access, but its location could possibly add to the erosion problem. Just in time for beautiful autumn weather, there is a new scenic entrance to the popular recreation spot.
Most of the staff and the Youth Conservation Corps from the Lower Suwannee and Cedar Keys National Wildlife Refuges spent many hot, humid hours setting the pilings and pounding boards in order to allow ingress and egress without causing erosion. It also provides a path for visitor sightseeing to the historic island’s trail. Students can use the boardwalk to observe small creatures and take a closer look at the vegetation especially adapted to the marsh, without trampling them, as discovered by FWC’s Jennifer Saranzak.
“It was a nice way to see some marine plants that grow beyond the sand dunes, such as spike grass and sea oxeye” reported Saranzak after teaching Gilchrist County 4-H kids.
Take advantage of the new boardwalk this fall for a family outing in your National Wildlife Refuge. For more information about recreational opportunities, call the Refuge at 352-493-0239.
Pam Darty is a National Park Service Ranger at the Cedar Keys & Lower Suwannee National Wildlife Refuces.