‘Ding’ Darling National Wildlife Refuge has plans to repair the vandalized baby manatee sculpture outside of its Visitor & Education Center restrooms.
The refuge reported the original artist Andrew Corke, who has since relocated from the island to Colorado, will work with local artist Lawrence Voytek to restore the sculpture. Corke created the one-of-a-kind piece using recycled bicycle tires.
Since last week’s announcement of the serious damage, the refuge has received kind words and contributions towards the restoration.
The refuge’s “learning lavatories” were voted America’s Best Restroom in 2018 and feature a photo-tile mangroves mural and stall doors wrapped with close-up professional photographs of refuge birds and identification information. North Carolina artist David Williams sculpted other creatures out of foam and fiberglass.
The refuge’s Visitor & Education Center has been closed since late March due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Acting Refuge Manager Kevin Godsea says the protection of people and property is the refuge’s top priority during the pandemic.
“The refuge staff is onsite for routine patrols to monitor critical activities during this time of uncertainty,” Godsea said. “We are currently looking to resume entrance fees and open more facilities as safety risks are mitigated.”
The Visitors & Education Center and its award-winning restrooms, along with the restrooms on Wildlife Drive, remain closed. Wildlife Drive is open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday to Thursday and closed on Fridays with no entrance fees. All hiking trails along Wildlife Drive and at Bailey Tract are also open.
To make a donation towards repairs of the baby manatee sculpture and continued upkeep can be made at the refuge’s website.