If you go
What: Grand opening event for new trails
When: 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Oct. 10
Activities: Guided bird walk at 7:15 a.m., guided kayak tours at 8 a.m. and 11 a.m. and a guided hiking tour at 11 a.m. Exhibits, demonstrations, food and soft drinks also are planned.
NAPLES — Hikers and paddlers looking for a new place to get outdoors can find it starting today at the Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge.
A new trailhead and boardwalk opens today at the 35,000-acre refuge east of Naples to provide visitors access to a mile-long hiking trail and new canoe and kayak trail south of U.S. 41 East between Port of the Islands and State Road 92.
A grand opening event is set for October to coincide with National Wildlife Refuge Week, but visitors don’t have to wait until then.
Having a new place to explore is welcome news for Southwest Florida kayakers eager to see what’s around the next mangrove.
“I think it’s wonderful,” Naples kayak tour operator Cyril Marks, 79, said Friday. “I’m looking forward to going there.”
The hiking trail, once an access road to an oil drilling pad, will be a good place to see sunning alligators, herons and migrating songbirds as fall approaches, refuge managers say.
Construction is expected to start in November on an observation tower.
The new canoe and kayak trail will connect with an existing trail south of U.S. 41, creating a loop through the marsh.
Plans call for the trailhead eventually to connect two other existing canoe and kayak trails.
Instead of having to pull off to the side of U.S. 41 to access the trails, visitors will be able to use an 18-space parking lot at the trailhead, assistant refuge manager Takako Sato said.
The Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge was created in 1996 as part of a Florida-Arizona land swap involving the Interior Department and Collier family interests.
The dangerous access situation has meant the refuge could not promote access — until now.
“I think it will be very welcome news,” Sato said.
Hunters with refuge permits can use the trailhead to get to duck and coot hunting areas in the refuge.
The Marsh Trail parking lot is located about three miles east of Collier-Seminole State Park and County Road 92.
If traveling from the east, the trail is about three miles west of the Port of the Islands.
Connect with Eric Staats at www.naplesnews.com/staff/eric_staats.