Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Refuge on Maui will receive new visitor center

With the promise of a new visitor center at Kealia Pond National Wildlife Refuge on Maui, the birds and other wildlife at the wetlands stand to receive more attention from tourists and island residents. Located north of Kihei, the refuge includes 691 acres and hosts the endangered Hawaiian Stilt (ae'o) and Hawaiian Coot ('alae ke oke'o). [In the Hawaiian language, most vowels are pronounced separatedly and not blended. --Ed.]

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The Hawaiian race of Black-necked Stilt (Himantopus mexicanus knudseni) nests at the refuge; the black around the neck and face extend farther than on mainland birds, according to Hawaii Audubon Society. Hawaiian Coot (Fulica alai) used to be considered a subspecies of American Coot (F. americana) but was "split" in 1993 and received full species status from American Ornithologists' Union.

At the refuge, construction plans include a 7,500-square-foot building to be used as a visitor center and refuge office, an exhibit hall, a multi-purpose room, a reception area and a lobby/bookstore. The facilities will replace the current single-wide mobile trailer used by refuge staff.

“We are currently open to the public, but with our single trailer we really have no way of adequately serving them,” Keâlia Pond NWR Manager Glynnis Nakai said. “We have never had a building attached to the ground, and certainly we have never had a facility where we can educate and interact with the school children and other visitors. This is a very exciting time for us.”

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