The Anson County Tourism Development Authority attended its monthly meeting on Sept. 12, and it was held at the newly completed Pee Dee Wildlife Refuge facility in Ansonville.
“The TDA group was impressed with the new office and enjoyed their visit. They especially liked the views of Sullivan Pond and marsh, and the stained glass “Blue Goose” window out front,” said Janet Gilreath, from the Refuge.
The old office and headquarters was built in 1967, and was a metal utility building on a concrete slab.
“Through the years, a stone base and siding were added to improve the appearance, “said Gilreath. “In 2013, flooding rains seeped through the walls and inundated the building. During the cleanup process, we discovered mold and other safety hazards in the building.”
At that time, officials decided it was time to start working on a new office facility.
The entire process — including planning, design, contracting and construction — took a little more than three years. The Refuge began planning and contracting phases in 2014. Construction started in September of 2016, and was completed in June. The Contracting and Engineering Divisions of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service guided the “new building” process. Refuge management and staff worked with these divisions through each step.
The steps included: planning the general size and location for the building; taking bids and awarding the contract to a vendor to design the building; working with the planning contractor to get things designed and ready, including permits; taking the plan set to contractors for bidding on the construction job, and awarding the construction contract; and working with the construction contractor through the completion of construction.
The new office will provide a contact station and interpretive information for visitors who use the Blueway. Frequent visitors will notice that the new office and check station are at Sullivan Pond, a half-mile back off Highway 52 from the old site.
Gilreath said that the Refuge has noticed increased visitor use of the wildlife drive, and more people hiking and fishing at Sullivan pond.
“We are also in the process of getting an aquatic classroom constructed at Sullivan Pond, and this will be a great teaching tool for students that visit the refuge each year during the spring and summer,” Gilreath said.
The Refuge’s “founding purpose and number one goal” is to provide a sanctuary for migratory birds, specifically migratory waterfowl, Gilreath said. “To meet this goal we try to manage refuge lands in a manner that provides good wildlife habitat for wild ducks and geese.”
Good wildlife habitat includes clean water, quality food sources, protective cover, and space arranged in a manner that wildlife can use them. Gilreath said that each year, the Refuge provides hundreds of acres of flooded crops, moist soil impoundments and other protected wetland areas for wintering waterfowl to feed and rest in.
“We are here for the public to use, and we offer many different opportunities for the public to enjoy, which includes, but are not limited to bird watching, hiking trails, fishing, bicycle riding, and hunting,” Gilreath said.
For more information on public use opportunities, visitors are encouraged to stop by the office, or an information kiosk and pick up a brochure, along with the refuge rules and regulations. Find the Refuge on the web at www.fws.gov/refuge/pee_dee.
Reach Natalie Davis at 704-994-5471.
The new Pee Dee Wildlife Refuge office opened this past June.