Wildlife refuge exhibits closed until water damage is repaired

WILLIAMSTOWN – The indoor exhibits and aquarium at the Ohio River Islands National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center in Williamstown are closed as the facility makes repairs, officials said.

“In December, one of the main water lines coming into the building broke and water leaked throughout the floors and have caused a lot of problems,” said Matthew Magruder, visitor services manager for the Ohio River Islands National Wildlife Refuge at 3982 Waverly Road. “The hardwood floors have buckled and we have a lot of repairs that are now coming up and need to be done.”

Because flooring and other materials of the building in the area of the indoor exhibits and aquarium will be replaced, that section of the facility will be closed to the public for the foreseeable future.

“Because we don’t know what other issues we will run into, we cannot say how long the exhibits and aquarium will be closed,” Magruder said. “It really all depends on what is found as work is done.”

Crystal Ambrose, recreational aide for the refuge visitor center, said a lot of people come to the facility to see the aquarium and water turtles on display.

“The animals are fine and will be back on display when the repairs are finished,” she said. “We just want to make sure people don’t drive all the way out here to see them and it is closed.”

Because it has taken more than a month for damage to show itself, Magruder said he and others at the refuge are being cautious.

“There is a possibility there is mold,” he said. “We hope there isn’t, but if we have mold growing from this water line break, the repairs will take a lot longer than initially thought, which is why we are not giving a timeline for reopening the exhibits.”

Although the exhibits and aquarium are on the right side of the building, the lobby, offices and outdoor facilities of the refuge on the left side will remain open.

“Although our indoor exhibits are closed, we want people to know we are still here and able to help them,” Ambrose said.

The refuge is open from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday with its outdoor facility on Middle Island near St. Marys, which is accessible to vehicles from George Street, and all other refuge land open daily from an hour before sunrise to an hour after sunset.

There are 22 Ohio River islands from Cincinnati to Pittsburgh with two-and-a-half islands in the Parkersburg-Marietta area. Those are part of Neale as well as Buckley and Muskingum islands.

Along with Middle Island, boats can tie up at the islands and hunting is allowed as long as participants check with the visitors center first.