Introducing nature's wonder to a new generation

Attracting families a priority for Wisconsin's Horicon National Wildlife Refuge

The Horicon National Wildlife Refuge has been wildly successful in drawing ducks, Canada geese, blue herons and sandhill cranes from all over the continent.

But there’s one coveted group of visitors that has proven a tad elusive to date—children.

Like many national parks and refuges across the United States, Horicon is seeking to attract more families to its trails and interpretive areas. With $10,000 in financial support from Enbridge, through the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s (NFWF) National Wildlife Refuge Friends program, organizers at this Wisconsin refuge are building a new habitat they hope will engage children and foster the next generation of wetland enthusiasts.

“Right now the wetland is geared more toward adults than children,” says Elizabeth Orsay, vice president of the Friends of Horicon National Wildlife Refuge. “We want to provide an area where kids want to explore and play and experience the wonders of nature.”

The new child-centered area will be called the Horicon Refuge Wonder Trail. It will feature a series of interactive stations along an existing trail through the refuge, each geared towards learning and play. At the interpretive center, children will be able to check out a backpack containing games and activities to guide them through stations and get them thinking like migratory birds.

“Today, most of the children who visit the refuge do so only on school trips,” says Orsay. “We want them to want to come on weekends and in summers with their families.”

It’s a goal that’s reflected on a larger scale by the National Park Foundation—whose Every Kid in a Park program is aimed at drawing children to national parks and wildlife refuges.

“We want kids to get out to appreciate and understand the importance of open nature,” says Orsay. “So many kids never leave their neighborhood or their school yards. They just don’t get to see what the parks and refuges have to offer.”

There’s more to programs like this than just ensuring kids are out in the fresh air, explains Orsay: “This is the generation that has to protect these lands in the future. We want them to see the importance of our natural resources, to continue to value and cherish them.”

It’s a sentiment that reflects the intent of Enbridge’s partnership with the NFWF. In 2015, Enbridge became the organization’s first corporate partner—contributing $125,000 for grants to Refuge Friends groups, like the Horicon National Wildlife Refuge, based near our projects and operations in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Texas and Oklahoma.

Enbridge anticipates renewing our commitment to this partnership on an annual basis, says Cindy Finch, a Minnesota-based senior public affairs advisor with Enbridge.

“Refuge Friends groups play an essential role in conserving natural resources identified for protection by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service,” says Finch. “We’re honored to support such a vital network of environmentally minded organizations.”