The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service together with U.S. Sen. David Vitter, U.S. Rep. John Fleming, former U.S. Rep. Jim McCrery, and the Red River Friends Group opened the Red River National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center in Bossier City today.
“The Red River Visitor Center is a place where the American public can go to learn about wildlife on the refuge and their habitat,” said Mark Musaus, the Service’s Southeast Deputy Regional Director. “It provides an accessible, welcoming entryway for people to connect with nature through hunting, fishing, hiking, and other wildlife-dependent recreational activities.”
The public is invited to attend an open house at the Visitor Center on Saturday, Jan. 14 from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. There will be nature-related activities for children, guided bird walks, and displays from the winners of the Art in Nature competition. In addition, Wildwood Dean, outdoorsman and author, will speak at 10:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. Visitors can access the facility from the western end of Sunflower Road. Later this fall, it will be accessible from the extension of the Teague Parkway.
Established in 2000, the refuge is comprised of 13,000 acres located in the
Red River Valley. To date, more than 5,000 acres of former farmland has
been converted to bottomland hardwood forest, its historic condition. The forest is improving water quality in the Red River Valley and providing habitat for 44 species of mammals, including the white-tailed deer, raccoons, squirrels and bats, as well as about 200 species of neotropical birds. Additionally, the refuge supports numerous water and marsh birds along with more than 14 species of waterfowl, such as mallards,green-winged teal, gadwall and wood ducks.
“Congratulations are in order for the Red River National Wildlife Refuge staff, friends and contributors on the ribbon cutting for their new Visitor and Education Center. The Red River is a vital part of Northern Louisiana’s ecosystem, and the continued restoration of the wildlife habitats along its banks is integral not only for citizens of North Louisiana, but for the entire state,” said U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu.
“Through the advent of this center, visitors to this refuge will now be able to gain a greater understanding of the Red River’s vital importance to Louisiana. I regret that I was not able to be at this momentous occasion, but like all who were in attendance, I share the enthusiasm for this wonderful achievement.”
The new $3.8 million facility will enhance awareness and connection to wildlife and wild places and is expected to generate an economic boost for the surrounding area.
“The opening of the Visitor and Education Center of the Red River National Wildlife Refuge is an exciting step in the development of the refuge,” said former U.S. Rep. Jim McCrery. “While the preservation of thousands of acres in northwest Louisiana is important for a number of reasons, this Center represents the hope that the refuge will contribute to our area’s tourism and will serve as an important educational resource for students throughout our state.”
The Visitor Center features exhibits that bring fragile features of the Red River National Wildlife Refuge into spaces that allow people to touch, hear, see and understand the natural beauty. The 9,000 square-foot facility was designed with green technology to maximize energy savings. It includes solar panels and was built using environmentally friendly natural materials. Volunteers from the Friends of Red River National Wildlife Refuge will staff the Visitor Center and a Nature Store.
“The beauty and wonder of the Red River National Wildlife Refuge has been known to a small group of nature enthusiasts for a few years now, but the opening of the Visitor Center brings a whole new dimension to the Refuge,”
said Nancy Menasco, president of the Friends of Red River NWR. “Now the general public and untold numbers of students and tourists can get an overview of the distinct environment found here. They can start with the lessons taught by the wonderful exhibits and the special events offered here. Then they can proceed outdoors to the lake, river, trails and all the natural wonders that exist throughout the refuge.”
The Visitor Center is located at 150 Eagle Bend Point, south of Bossier City and the Jimmie Davis Bridge along the Red River. The Service is committed to providing access to the open house on Jan. 14 for all participants. Persons needing reasonable accommodations to participate in this event should contact Refuge Manager Pat Stinson at 318-742-1219 or [email protected]. In order to allow sufficient time to process requests, please contact Stinson by close of business on Jan. 12.