October came in like a caribou shedding velvet from its antlers as the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge (KNWR) celebrated seven decades of conservation with creative kid's games that taught them some unique challenges that wildlife like caribou and mountain goats face on the refuge. KNWR was established in 1941 to protect the "giant Kenai moose" by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Over the years according to KNWR ranger Leah Eskelin the refuge has grown and now serves to protect wildlife, habitats and 1.3 million acres of wilderness while offering extraordinary outdoor recreational opportunities.
The anniversary celebration included a multitude of games, events, and guided nature walks and insect safaris. Kids got to see a live golden eagle and great gray owl up close thanks to the Bird Treatment and Learning Center who came down for the event from Anchorage and actually operate water shooting fire fighting equipment. "It was heartwarming to see all the young folks that came out today to share the day and experience the vision that folks had long ago and the result of the hard work of so many staff, supporters and community members along the way that have made this refuge possible for future generations to connect with nature, it was really a great day," said KNWR Manager Andy Loranger.
The party was held at the KNWR headquarters on Ski Hill Rd. in Soldotna and included free hot dogs and chili for lunch with the live blue grass music of Jack Will and Sheri Biggs and of course birthday cake for all, "You can't have a birthday party without cake now can you, so we had a big one," added Eskelin. Children of all ages enjoyed meeting "Rex" the refuge canine officer and his handlers along with Smokey the Bear himself. There were also a wide array of special exhibits and even a chance to inscribe a favorite memory on the Refuge Memory Wall. Biologists were on hand to demonstrate the latest high tech radio tag devices for tracking fish and guided bird walks along the Keen-Eye Nature Trail. All in all it was a 70th Birthday Party as big as the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge itself.