After three years of trying to get funding, an effort to make the Stillwater National Wildlife Refuge a more attractive draw to tourists and wildlife enthusiasts is finally getting off the ground.
The refuge received $10,000 last month from the Nevada Commission on Tourism and $40,000 from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to start building visitors amenities at the refuge.
"We're finally getting something out there just for the public," said refuge spokesperson Janet Schmidt.
Long-term plans for the refuge include a new administration and visitors building with state-of-the-art educational exhibits, floor-to-ceiling windows and a wetlands viewing plaza. The building would include classrooms for school groups and offices for recreation and educational staff.
The plans, created by an Oregon architectural firm, also include viewing platforms with seat-walls that extend into the water of the marsh and viewing blinds that will camouflage bird watchers as they catch a glimpse of waterfowl in their natural setting. The design even includes dormitory residences.
"If we, at some point, build up some sort of volunteer force that's where they would stay," Schmidt said.
The long-term plans are simply refuge officials' wish list, however. If funding for most of the improvements ever comes through, it will likely be long after current refuge staffers are retired or transferred.
But hopefully, at least one of the improvements to the internationally-recognized wetlands about 25 northeast of Fallon will be made by 2005.
With the grant money SNWR received this year, a boardwalk enabling visitors to walk into the marsh will be built and educational signs posted along the way.
The boardwalk will be built in conjunction with a 10-mile nature tour loop, a parking lot and bathrooms. The tour loop and roads connecting it from other parts of the refuge, at a cost of $1 million, are being funded by the Federal Highway Administration.
FHA money can only be used for roads and road signs, Schmidt said, not for interpretive signage or the boardwalk. That's where this year's tourism and wildlife grants come in.
"With these grants, we're going to be able to go a long way," Schmidt said.
Construction on the loop and boardwalk, Schmidt said, is tentatively scheduled to start early in 2005.
Cory McConnell can be contacted at email@example.com