People participate in the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge’s BARK ranger program on June 5, 2021 for National Trails Day in Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo provided by Michelle Ostrowski)

People participate in the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge’s BARK ranger program on June 5, 2021 for National Trails Day in Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo provided by Michelle Ostrowski)

Refuge celebrates National Trails Day with visitor center reopening

The refuge’s visitor center has been closed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

After spending the majority of the last year and a half closed because of the coronavirus pandemic, the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center in Soldotna opened its doors on Saturday to celebrate National Trails Day.

Michelle Ostrowski, an education specialist at the refuge, said Saturday’s event was successful.

One of the most popular events on Trails Day was the BARK Ranger program, in which dogs and their owners learn about proper refuge etiquette. BARK is an acronym: Bag the waste; Always stay on leash; Respect wildlife; Know where you can go.

“That one was really fun,” Ostrowski said.

Gail Easley, a volunteer at the refuge, said there were quite a few people participating in the hiking on trails day. Park rangers led hikes ranging from kid-family to strenuous.

“There was something for everyone,” she said.

StoryWalk, a program that allows children to read about nature while following laminated pages of educational books on a hike, is also underway at the refuge. Ostrowski said the walk is a great way to promote literacy and get kids into the outdoors.

Other upcoming June events at the refuge include the Youth Conservation Corps Programs and the different children’s summer camps. Next month, Ostrowski said, there will also be guided walks and events to kick off fish week. To enforce social distancing and limited capacity, all the programs have a pre-registration requirement, she said.

The visitor center, apart from the indoor theater, is now open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday at limited capacity. People not vaccinated against COVID-19 are required to wear a mask in federal buildings per the national mandate.

“We’re getting back to a new normal,” Ostrowski said. “I’m just excited that I get to do programming again.”

More information about refuge events can be found on the Facebook page or by emailing Ostrowski at michelle_ostrowski@fws.gov.

Reach reporter Camille Botello at camille.botello@peninsulaclarion.com.

Michelle Ostrowski leads the BARK ranger program at the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge on Saturday, June 5, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo provided by Michelle Ostrowski)

Michelle Ostrowski leads the BARK ranger program at the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge on Saturday, June 5, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo provided by Michelle Ostrowski)

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