Mar 02 2008
No birding trip to Central Florida is complete without a visit to Merritt Island, home of NASA’s Kennedy Space Center and thousands upon thousands of birds.
Chuck, Joan and I visited it a week ago to look for Florida scrub jays, painted buntings and roseate spoonbills (spoonbills photo by Chuck Tague).
Heavy rain moved in from the north so our trip was abbreviated but we managed to stop at Palm Hammock Trail, Haulover Canal, Black Point Drive and the Visitors’ Center before it poured. We couldn’t find any painted buntings – hungry mosquitoes chased us away! – but I loved seeing an adult peregrine falcon, American avocets and my favorite pink bird: roseate spoonbills.
Merritt Island is a magical place so we were dismayed to learn that all of this beauty may soon be gone, its fate decided in the next six months.
NASA is proposing two possible sites for a 200-acre commercial space launch area. Both sites will have an impact on wildlife but Site 2 would close all the places we visited including the Visitors Center. No more visits to Merritt Island!
Because of federal budget issues, NASA is worried their Florida operation will be eliminated so the commercial launch site is being touted as a typical jobs-versus-environment argument. What is lost in this discussion are the jobs generated by the 500,000 to 750,000 visitors per year who come from all over the world to see Merritt Island’s wildlife.
Last week there were public meetings in Titusville and New Smyrna Beach where NASA laid out their plans. NASA owns the land and can take it back at will. Their schedule for doing so is here.
For more information about the project and its impacts, see http://environmental.ksc.nasa.gov/projects/ksc-cvlc.htm.
You can influence NASA’s site decision by submitting your comments to the address below. You can also help by spreading the news to others who love Merritt Island.
Send comments to:
Mario Busacca, Environmental Program Office
Mail Code TA-C3
Kennedy Space Center, FL 32899
Telephone: 321-867-8456; FAX: 321-867-8040