National Wildlife Refuge System
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No Car Needed to Visit These Refuges

Visitors enjoy a tram tour of Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge in Texas. The tram earned the refuge high marks for good internal car-free transportation in a study by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Volpe National Transportation Systems Center.
Visitors enjoy a tram tour of Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge in Texas. The tram earned the refuge high marks for good internal car-free transportation in a study by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Volpe National Transportation Systems Center.
Credit: Steve Hillebrand

Outdoor enthusiasts can already visit some national wildlife refuges without burning more fossil fuels. Ride a bike to a bog or catch a bus to a fishing hole.

Soon enthusiasts may be able to visit more. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Volpe National Transportation Systems Center are studying the feasibility of expanding car-free access to wildlife refuges.

Of 138 refuges examined so far, 62 have some type of public transit service. Twelve have two or more bicycle or recreation trail connections; 23 refuges have one.

According to the study, wildlife refuges with strong existing transit connections to surrounding metropolitan areas include:

  • Minnesota Valley Refuge near Minneapolis (accessible via light rail from Minneapolis);
  • San Diego Bay Refuge in California (accessible via bus and trolley from San Diego);
  • Tijuana Slough Refuge in California (accessible via bus from San Diego);
  • John Heinz Refuge at Tinicum in Pennsylvania (accessible from Philadelphia via bus and rail);
  • and Tualatin River Refuge in Oregon (accessible via bus from Portland).

Refuges with good bicycle or recreation trail access include:

  • Big Muddy National Fish and Wildlife Refuge in Missouri (linked to Katy Trail State Park);
  • San Diego Bay Refuge in California (linked to 24-mile Bayshore Bikeway);
  • Big Branch Marsh Refuge in Louisiana (along 27.5-mile Tammany Trace Bike Trail);
  • Upper Mississippi National Wildlife and Fish Refuge—La Crosse District in Wisconsin (along Mississippi River Trail and adjacent to the 21-mile LaCrosse River State Trail and the 24-mile Great River State Trail).

Refuges with good internal car-free transit systems include: Santa Ana Refuge in Texas (tram); Seney Refuge in Michigan (shuttle bus in summer); and J.N. "Ding" Darling Refuge in Florida (year-round tram).

The study, funded by the Federal Transit Administration’s Paul S. Sarbanes Transit in Parks Program, also identified several refuges with high potential for new transit, bike or recreation trail connections. These include Shiawassee Refuge in Michigan, Edwin B. Forsythe Refuge in New Jersey and Chincoteague Refuge in Virginia.

Projects are under way to facilitate bus service to Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge in Colorado and improve non-motorized access to National Elk Refuge in Wyoming and Chincoteague Refuge in Virginia. Also receiving Transit in the Parks funds this year were:  Neal Smith Refuge in Iowa for preliminary work on a bike/pedestrian trail; Parker River Refuge in Massachusetts for a shuttle to a commuter rail station; Wichita Mountains Refuge in Oklahoma to replace a tour bus; Presquile Refuge in Virginia to plan the replacement of a cable ferry; J.N. "Ding" Darling Refuge in Florida for transportation option analysis.

For more information, visit http://www.fta.dot.gov/funding/grants/grants_financing_6106.html

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