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Ding’ Darling Wildlife Refuge reopens despite government shutdown

Posted at 8:30 PM, Jan 11, 2019
and last updated 2019-01-11 20:34:45-05

It’s been about 20 days since any visitors were in the education centers or gift shops at the ‘Ding’ Darling Wildlife Refuge, due to the government shutdown.
That changed earlier this week when 4 out of the 10 employees returned to work along with hundreds of visitors.
The employees were able to come back because of a temporary solution. They’re using entrance fees to help pay for employees to open the visitors center, and continue the programs and special events.
"The reason we’re continuing to work during the shut down is to protect the refuge, the property, life health, and safety,” said Paul Tritaik, the ‘Ding’ Darling Wildlife Manager.
A partner with the wildlife refuge, Tarpon Bay Nature Tours had a roll in that, they helped collect those entry fees from visitors.
"It was really tough to be able to offer what ‘Ding’ darling has to offer, and so now that we can it’s great,” said Assistant Manager, Margie Kline.
This soft opening couldn’t come at a better time for the wildlife refuge. Managers say more than 930,000 people visit the refuge. January through March are generally they’re busiest months.
"This is one of the busiest times of the year, we not only have visitors coming from not only from all over the country but all over the world,” said Tritaik.
6 of the employees are still furloughed, and the refuge is only allowed to use the entry fees for 30 days.