provided to Santiva Chronicle
Seventy-five years ago, Jay Norwood “Ding” Darling was able to convince then Florida Governor, Spressard Holland, and eventually the Truman administration to enter a lease agreement with the State of Florida to protect 2,392 acres of land under the authority of the Migratory Bird Conservation Act of 1929. As a result, the formerly known Sanibel National Wildlife Refuge was born. In 1967 (five years after Darling’s passing), the refuge was named the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge after “Ding” Darling to commemorate his legacy. “Ding” Darling was a pillar in an emerging conservation movement in the early 20th century implementing projects such as the Federal Duck Stamp Program and establishing the National Wildlife Federation.
To celebrate all of “Ding’s” accomplishments, the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge has planned a myriad of events, programs and offerings to help remind the public of Darling’s accomplishments. Tarpon Bay Explorers, the concession to the refuge, will most recently be offering a free Standup Paddleboard clinic on November 23rd from 9am-12pm. The clinic will be conducted on a first-come, first serve basis. Instructors will teach paddling basics to novices and can refine skills for more experienced paddlers. “Paddleboarding is a great way to experience the refuge and wildlife that loves inhabiting it,” explained Wendy Schnapp, General Manager and part-owner of Tarpon Bay Explorers. “It is a versatile sport that people of all ages can enjoy, while minimizing impact to the environment,” mentioned Schnapp. “Paddlers can look underneath the surface with a bird’s eye view and see schools of fish or a manatee and then look up to see a squadron of pelicans fly over.”
“Ding” Darling set aside the initial acreage of the refuge as a bird sanctuary, but as a result a countless number of other kinds of wildlife is now protected as well. Tarpon Bay Explorers takes pride in being exceptional stewards to the environment and likes to think that Mr. Darling would be proud of their ability to convey his message to visitors of the area. “Conservation is just as important now, as it was 75 years ago,” explained Schnapp. “Our purpose is to educate individuals about conservation’s significance even if it is one person at a time.”
Tarpon Bay Explorers is the concession to the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge. The company provides educational and recreational activities from their location at 900 Tarpon Bay Rd. Feel free to call their gift shop at 239-472-8900 for more information and reservations. More information can also be found on their website at www.tarponbayexplorers.com.