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Here's the latest from the MINWR web site regarding the hours of
operation for Black Point Wildlife Drive.


        PRESS RELEASE
        Contact: Dorn Whitmore
        October 4, 2001
        (321) 861-0667

        Expanded Security Zone Affects Visitors to Merritt Island
National Wildlife Refuge

        An increase in security at the Kennedy Space Center and the
Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, will affect Merritt Island National
Wildlife Refuge,
        says Ron Hight, Refuge Manager. Due to tightened security many
sections of the refuge normally open to the public are now closed or
have reduced
        hours of operation. This will affect all user groups, like
birdwatchers, fishermen, and hunters and they should be aware of
these changes.

        The reduced hours of operation affect all entry south of
Haulover Canal and impacts most facilities including the Visitor
Center, Black Point Wildlife
        Drive and all trails. NASA Security is opening the gates for
eight hours each day from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Visitors need to
        adjust their plans to fit this new schedule. For many visitors
this may be a minor adjustment to arrive after 10:00. Visitors will
find most facilities
        like the wildlife drive, most trails and the Visitor Center
open after 10:00. But for others, the delayed opening may be more of
an inconvenience.

        The delayed opening affects fishermen and birdwatchers the
most. Typically both groups arrive during the early morning or late
afternoon
        hours. Fishermen are allowed access to three boat ramps along
SR 3 but they are not allowed to enter south Mosquito Lagoon or the
bank fishing
        areas south of 402. Under the new gate opening schedule,
fishermen who wish to use Refuge boat ramps before 10:00 a.m. need to
approach from
        the north. Birdwatchers may be impacted more because their
prime birding area, Black Point Wildlife Drive, is closed during the
peak morning and
        afternoon hours. Most of the side roads used by birders are also closed.

   It doesn't sound good. I doubt anyone's going to see any Black
Rails there for a while.

David Hartgrove
Daytona Beach

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