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Excess litter prompts partial closing of Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge

Volunteers called out to pick up trash

Merritt Island National Refuge says guests are leaving behind too much litter.
Merritt Island National Refuge says guests are leaving behind too much litter. (Merritt Island National Refuge)

MERRITT ISLAND, Fla. – Excess litter in the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge has prompted park officials to close access to the Haulover Canal Saturday.

A red sign with a sternly worded message was posted at the park Friday and Saturday, News 6 partner Florida Today reports.

"Attention. Due to the amount of trash left by visitors, this area has been closed to all entry," the sign reads.

Volunteers were called out to clean up trash in the Haulover Canal area and roads were closed nearby to allow for the safety of staff and volunteers.

“Although clean-ups were previously held in November and December, the litter problem has once again exceeded the Refuge’s capability to keep the area clean,” park officials wrote on Facebook.

The Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge holds a Trash Bash on the second Saturday of every month during colder months to get volunteers to help out when the litter builds up, according to Kim King-Wrenn, visitor services manager at the Refuge.

“Litter is a constant challenge for us. We are a very high-visitation refuge. In fiscal year 2019, we had 1.6 million visitors,” she said. “Unfortunately a lot of litter gets left behind and we have a very small staff, so we rely on volunteers.”

"It's something we started doing this year... It's both safer for the people doing the cleaning and it highlights the problem for others," she added.

King-Wrenn wants visitors to understand that litter is "not only unsightly but it's unhealthy for wildlife."

"We have birds that are entangled in fishing lines. We have wildlife coming around trashcans when food is left nearby and then they get hit by vehicles," she said.

The next Trash Bash will be held Feb. 8 at the National Wildlife Refuge.