MANILA -- Big Lake National Wildlife Refuge community day was held Saturday with over 100 area residents enjoying an educational/fun day with nature.
Members of Friends of Big Lake, the Archeology Society, Northeast Arkansas Audubon Society, and other volunteers joined Big Lake Refuge Manager Brian Braudis in making the day a success.
Nature walks were conducted throughout the day along with exhibits of animal skins and artifacts. Residents were encouraged to bring their Indian artifacts for interpretation.
The Audubon Society conducted the nature walks and adding the chart of birds spotted on each tour.
A fish tank was displayed giving those present the opportunity to get a good look at the type of fish in Big Lake. Three different types of turtles were displayed, along with a raccoon, squirrel, and a snake.
Several artists were on hand displaying their work and painting on site. Present were Dan Donovan and Jim Cheadle, both of Manila, Ola Joyner of Sommerville, Tenn., Robert Ferrell of Codova, Tenn., and Ann Enochs of Bartlett, Tenn.
Friends of Big Lake members Steve Stromire and Julie Stromire manned the information table distributing maps of Big Lake, bumper stickers and brochures.
Friends of Big Lake NWR is in its first year and have 15 members. Member Melvin Browning said that the group is growing and always looking for volunteers that would be interested in joining.
Friends of Big Lake are presenting selling Blue Bird boxes and taking donations on the boxes to create a Blue Bird Trail. Stromire said the boxes can be purchased in memory of loved ones and a nameplate will be added.
"We want to place the bluebird boxes all along the trail," Browning said.
Another project the Friends are working on is raising money to purchase a pontoon boat for nature tours for the community.
Braudis welcomed the guests.
"Big Lake is here and it is yours," Braudis said. "Community involvement is very important."
Mississippi County Schools also joined in the celebration of National Wildlife Refuge Week with several students creating posters that were judged and displayed at the community day. Lance Wilson won third place, Nathan Bell won second place, and Zachary Ryan Lee won first place in the poster contest.
Manila Mayor Melvin Browning said he plans to exhibit the posters at Manila City Hall.
"All of the posters were very good and you could see that many of the young artists had visited the area and done their research," Browning said.
The community day gave everyone the opportunity to see first hand what Big Lake National Wildlife Refuge has to offer.
The day was planned in conjunction with the celebration of National Wildlife Refuge Week.