Hotdogs, chips and ice cream provided by George & Wendy's Seafood Grille was enjoyed by everyone.
Hotdogs, chips and ice cream provided by George & Wendy's Seafood Grille was enjoyed by everyone.
For the past eight years, LARC Inc., or the Lee County Association of Remarkable Citizens, has explored the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge with the help of Tarpon Bay Explorers.

Since 1954, LARC Inc., has dedicated the organization to meeting, promoting and providing developmentally disabled people of Lee County with opportunities and services to gain independence and responsibilities.

“The partnership between LARC and Tarpon Bay is becoming tradition now more than anything. We look forward to the event each year,” commented LARC leader Tom Hoover.

Tarpon Bay Explorers is the concession to the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge providing informative tours and recreational activities.

As tradition goes, the folks of LARC, Inc. explored the refuge by land and sea. The first portion of the trip consisted of a tram tour along Wildlife Drive led by seasoned naturalists Donna and Steve Yetsko. The tide was low, conditions were right, and the birding was superb.

“The birding was fantastic,” exclaimed both Yetskos.

All of the highlight birds showed up including Roseate Spoonbills, White Pelicans, Reddish Egrets, Osprey, Great Blue Herons, Yellow Crowned Night Herons and more.

“We observed 15 species of birds. Not only the diversity was great, but the birds really showed up in numbers too,” explained Donna Yetsko.

After the tram tour, the group drove back to Tarpon Bay to prepare for their boat cruise. But all that birding built up an appetite. George & Wendy’s Seafood Grille provided good ol’ fashioned hotdogs, watermelon, chips and ice cream for the bunch to munch on.

Once consumed and hands were washed, the Yetskos led the gang into the Aquarium Touch Tanks to learn about critters that live at the bottom of Tarpon Bay. Then the group boarded Explorer IV to cruise the tranquil waters of Tarpon Bay looking at any and every kind of wildlife.

“Our group always has a great time out here,” said Hoover. “We’re glad Tarpon Bay was again ready to accommodate us so we could provide another great trip for people,” explained Hoover.

Tarpon Bay Explorers provides educational and recreational opportunities within the refuge and 15 percent of what is taken in is given back to U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service for the care and protection of refuges around the U.S. Call Tarpon Bay Explorers for tour reservations or more information at 239-472-8900 or visit their website at It’s open every day from 8am-5pm and will remain open regardless of the status of the government.