Happy Birthday Merritt Island Refuge
November 8, 2013 - In 1962, NASA acquired 140,000 acres of land, water, and marshes adjacent to Cape Canaveral in Florida to establish the John F. Kennedy Space Center in Florida. NASA built a launch complex and other space-related facilities, but development of most of the area was not necessary. In1963, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service signed an agreement to establish Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge.
The 50th Anniversary “Space for Wildlife Festival” on November 9 is the largest festival the refuge has ever held. The day includes wildlife exhibitors, demonstrations and family activities. From now through January 2014, the Brevard Watercolor Society presents watercolor paintings of wildlife and landscapes from the refuge, as well as artist renditions of historic photos of homes in the area before NASA arrived.
Boxcars and Turtles
That launch pad no longer exists and the rail line was washed out by Hurricane Sandy in 2012, but the turtles are thriving. Merritt Island Refuge recorded a record number of green sea turtle nests this year and close to record numbers of loggerhead nests.
Enjoying Merritt Island Refuge
Fishing season is year round. Bank fishing for saltwater species is available along dike roads. Portions of Banana River are open to non-motorized boats only to protect manatees. Merritt Island Refuge is also open for waterfowl hunting.
The Merritt Island Wildlife Association is the Friends organization supporting the refuge. To celebrate the 50th anniversary, the Association partnered with Space Coast Audubon to sponsor an art contest for Brevard County school students. The entries and winners are on display at galleries in downtown Titusville, Florida.