The J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel Island’s latest cool tool is called the Roving Ranger, and it will be up and running in February.
“Building on the success of our WoW (Wildlife on Wheels) mobile classroom, we discovered a need for a smaller community-outreach vehicle,” said Supervisory Refuge Ranger Toni Westland. “Organizations and events are always asking the refuge to attend festivals and educational days, but we needed a smaller, more accessible vehicle to make this happen. Thus, the idea of the Roving Ranger was born – a refuge-on-wheels the size of a food truck.”
Similar to what a few national parks have done in the past, this will be the first such vehicle in the national refuge system, which is comprised of nearly 600 refuges. Compact and easy to set up, Roving Ranger will be visiting libraries, churches, parks, and events throughout Lee and Collier counties to share information about the refuge and educate the public about conservation issues.
The Roving Ranger’s colorfully wrapped, nature-themed exterior will attract attention, and outdoor activities will engage visitors of all ages. Refuge educators will greet visitors through a window on the side of the truck and at informational tables and exhibits outside of the vehicle. It will serve as a starting point for tours and other activities. A selfie station on the back side of the Roving Ranger will showcase a framework of refuge creatures, including a manatee, a roseate spoonbill, and other birds.
“Our goal is to introduce the importance of our natural world and the wonders that can be found at the refuge and locally, and to create stewards for our wildlife and the land and water they need to survive,” said Westland. “We have already begun scheduling the Roving Ranger.”