Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge now has greater accessibility for the elderly, very young, and handicapped.
A $37,000 grant from the Community Foundation of the Lowcountry to Friends of the Savannah Coastal Wildlife Refuges also will enhance programs at the 4,000-acre refuge located between the two bridges to Hilton Head Island.
New equipment includes a 15-seat electric cart, 15 loaner binoculars and 15 loaner bicycles, according to the Friends nonprofit organization, which inaugurated the changes Tuesday in partnership with the Savannah Coastal Refuges Complex.
“Funds will also be used to print information brochures, purchase tables and chairs, and improve signage in the refuge. Volunteers will offer more programs, including nature walks, bird walks, bike tours and children’s programs,” according to a news release. “The electric cart will provide a comfortable way for groups to explore the refuge with a driver/guide.”
Volunteers also will provide visitor assistance, including water on extremely hot days.
“Although more than 200,000 people visit Pinckney each year, it has been difficult for many people to enjoy because the roads and trails are inaccessible to vehicles,” said Friends board member George Cathcart.
He said that the changes, spearheaded by board vice chairman John Petraglia, will enable more people to visit remote areas of the refuge without disturbing existing wildlife and habitat.
“More than 14 miles of gravel roads and grass trails wind through Pinckney Island, providing visitor access to a wide range of habitats, including salt marsh, forestland, brushland, fallow fields and freshwater ponds,” Cathcart said. “Wildlife includes waterfowl, shorebirds, wading birds, raptors, neo-tropical migrants, white-tailed deer and American alligators. In spring, freshwater ponds often serve as rookeries for white ibis and several species of herons and egrets.”
The refuge is open free of charge from sunrise to sunset daily. It was established in 1975 when the land was donated to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service after nearly 40 years as a privately-owned game preserve.