A damaged baby manatee sculpture outside the ‘Ding’ Darling National Wildlife Refuge restrooms has been repaired. Local artist Lawrence Voytek restored the unique piece of art Tuesday, June 30, and instructed refuge staff on how to maintain the manatees and outdoor murals.
Voytek worked with the original artist Andrew Corke, who has since moved from the island to Colorado, and helped with the installation two years ago. Corke created the one-of-a-kind sculptures of a baby and mother manatee from recycled bicycle tires.
It appeared someone picked at and possibly peeled off a section of the bicycle tire, its paint and protective coating from the manatee’s fin. After the refuge reported the damage, the community stepped up by making donations for the restoration.
The refuge’s “learning lavatories” were voted America’s Best Restroom in 2018 and feature photo-tile mangroves mural and stall doors wrapped with close-up professional photographs of refuge birds and identification information.
The “Ding” Visitor & Education Center and restrooms have been closed since late March due to the pandemic. Recently, the refuge re-opened restrooms along Wildlife Drive, which is also open with no entrance fees. Complete COVID-19 updates at “Ding” Darling can be found on its website.