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Wildlife Refuge opens for festival

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By Pam Darty

Federal employees and the staff of the US Fish and Wildlife Service, Cedar Keys National Wildlife Refuge, reopened with a big bang:  the Cedar Keys Light Station Open House – just in time for National Wildlife Refuge Week.

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 After being sent home Oct. 1 during the closure of the federal government, they were more than happy to be back to work welcoming visitors to the historic site.

Partner, University of Florida Marine Research Lab, hosted visitors to the lab; three acres of the island have been leased from the federal refuge since 1952. Assistant Director Jennifer Seavey joined in by having her undergraduate students provid several island ecology presentations and marine research findings. Everyone’s favorite stop was the marine creature touch tanks set-up by the UF students. Small grouper, scallops, starfish, whelks and other curious specimens drew a crowd.

Florida Lighthouse Association volunteers Alice and David D’amicol helped out with the event for the 14th year, drove from the Orlando area to greet crowds at the lighthouse door. Two years ago, the couple urged the university to take advantage of the lighthouse license plate grant funding; those same funds paid for the latest coat of paint on the historic light station – funds neither the wildlife refuge nor the university could have afforded.  

All had a fine day celebrating, enjoying the Seafood Festival and learning about the marine environment.