Jon Heinz Wildlife Refuge gets $1M annual gift

Charles Mostoller

The John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge at Tinicum, the country’s only urban wildlife refuge, will soon expand due to a hefty federal investment.

The annually renewed $1 million investment from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will boost community engagement and public access through a variety of means, public officials announced Thursday, making it easier for visitors to observe nesting bald eagles, osprey, white-tailed deer and more.

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Mayor Jim Kenney, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services Director Dan Ashe, Congressmen Bob Brady and Patrick Meehan came out for Thursday’s announcement, which featured a live American bald eagle demonstration and showcasing of a replica of her nest.

Lamar Gore, the refuge manager, said the $1 million a year will translate into additional staff and programming at the refuge and community outreach. He said they’re currently able to hire high school kids throughout the year to work on restoration projects, but still have a long way to go.

“We’ll be able to break down transportation barriers and cultural barriers. One of the barriers is – do we have enough bus routes getting into the refuge or bike trails getting into the refuge? The bike routes are amazing and lot of people bike in Philadelphia, and we’re trying to get some bike share stations in southwest Philly, and we’re willing to figure out a way to pay for them and put them in some locations down here,” he said.

Kenney tipped his hat to his predecessor, former Mayor Michael Nutter, who blazed the trail for expanding the city’s parks system. He vowed he’d carry that torch forward.

“These efforts bring back that spirit of balance to all of us because all of our kids and young people who live in neighborhoods who have seen more violence and more sheet-covered bodies than some soldiers see in a lifetime of war –they need this place,” Kenney said.

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“They need this place to become peaceful, to be less stressed, to learn what nature’s really about, and it’s not about violence and difficulties, its about peace and humanity and calmness.”

“With that $1 million, hopefully we’ll be able to have some volunteers…get some more employment, put some people to work and also be able to enjoy this great place,” said Brady.

“This place is a jewel. It puts kids out here in this great outdoors where they need to be instead of stuck inside watching the TV or playing with the video games.”

Meehan had the crowd roaring with laughter when he made a quip about the Eagles, but not before recognizing the nation’s Fish and Wildlife Director coming all the way to Philadelphia for Thursday’s announcement.

“Hey, this is the way our eagles get to be number one!”

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