The Ritch Grissom Memorial Wetlands, located on Charlie Corbeil Way just off of the western end of Wickham Road in Viera, has reopened after being closed since early April due to concerns relating to COVID-19.
Nature enthusiasts undoubtedly are pleased by the re-opening of the site, which spans about 200 acres, according to Raleigh Berry, a senior environmental scientist with Brevard County Natural Resources Management.
"On any given day, you can see something on the order of 75 different species of birds," Berry said. "We have alligators, we have turtles, we have otters, we have deer in the early morning, occasionally turkey. We’ve seen a couple of black bears come through, so it’s a great place for wildlife."
Berry discussed the reasoning behind the closure, while noting how the hiring of a young man as a temporary employee has helped to usher in the reopening.
"We rely heavily on our volunteers, most of whom are senior citizens and therefore in the high risk category," Berry said. "That’s the principal reason that we needed to close because they come into close contact with our visitors regularly during their closing responsibilities and when they’re serving as rangers here. It took us a while to get everything lined up so that we could have an appropriately aged individual who would be able to do those duties in the evening for us."
Berry also noted it wasn't an easy decision to close the Wetlands.
"This is a very popular site," Berry said. "It’s beautiful. We have vehicular access when conditions permit and the local community loves it so it was a very hard thing, a hard decision to make to close it."
The Wetlands is open daily at 6 a.m., according to grissomwetlands.org. The Wetlands’ closing procedures have been changed with the safety of visitors in mind, Berry added.
"We have had to modify the closing procedure to incorporate sanitation here at the Wetlands because there are a number of surfaces that lots of people come into contact with and those need to be sanitized so we begin our closing procedure around 6 o’clock, last entry is still, and this is seasonal, at this time of year, last entry is at 7:30 and they’re closing the front gates at 8."
As of mid-August, Berry said that the park still was closed to vehicular traffic due to the frequency of heavy rain. That is assessed every evening.
Those interested in finding out more information as to whether the roads are open for vehicles should call an information hotline at 321-255-4488.