Kealia Pond National Wildlife Refuge visitor center and Kanuimanu Ponds public viewing area will be open to the public on Saturday, from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.
The Fish and Wildlife facilities aren't normally open on Saturdays, but Kealia Refuge Manager Glynnis Nakai said the Saturday opening is part of a pilot program to open the refuge on a weekend day that will be more convenient for people who work or attend school Monday to Friday.
"The refuge is tucked away behind the wetlands and many residents don't realize we are here and open to the public," Nakai said. "The refuge's new visitor center that opened in February has interpretive displays about native Hawaiian wetland birds and public viewing areas to observe birds in a wetland environment.
"By opening the refuge on Saturday, we hope to draw in more of Maui's residents to experience what the refuge has to offer and to learn about Hawaii's unique wetland birds, plants and insects," she said.
Nakai said the next Saturday opening would be in October during National Wildlife Refuge Week, but she did not immediately have the exact date for when the refuges will be open to the public.
Then, the refuge will have seasonal one-Saturday-per-month openings from January to March and then again from July to September, she said.
During those months, "it's when we can avoid endangered water bird nesting season," she said, and "it's when migratory birds are here," such as Hawaiian coots and stilts.
On Saturday, refuge volunteer Sonny Gamponia will present "Wetland Wonders" at 11 a.m. in the visitor center. Also, an 11-minute movie titled, "America's National Wildlife Refuge System: Where Wildlife Comes First" will be shown continuously from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m. and from 1 to 2 p.m.
The refuge is typically open Mondays to Fridays from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. and is only open on Saturdays for scheduled special events or volunteer service projects.
Refuge visitors have access to the Kealia Pond National Wildlife Refuge visitor center and Kanuimanu Pond public viewing area.
There, they can see the endangered Hawaiian stilt, ae'o, and Hawaiian coot, 'alae ke'oke'o, but also migratory birds from the Mainland. Although there are no formal guided tours, refuge staff and volunteers will be available to provide information and to answer questions.
After checking in at the visitor center, visitors may tour the interpretive exhibit hall and view native birds in a peaceful, wetland environment. Visitors are encouraged to bring binoculars and wear appropriate sun protection clothing.
The Kealia refuge is located off Mokulele Highway at Milepost 6.