New Event Shelter for Gavins Point National Fish Hatchery
A grant from the Fish and Aquatic Conservation Fish Funds program provides hatchery with a new portable event shelter.

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A new, custom printed, canopy tent gives the GPNFH outreach exhibit a much-needed facelift.

Fortunately, Gavins Point National Fish Hatchery is located among a set of communities in South Dakota that have a vibrant interest in the outdoors around them. Our location, less than a half mile from both the flowing Missouri River and the southern-most reservoir on the system, keeps both locals and hundreds of thousands of visitors active outside.

Outreach opportunities abound, whether they are at schools, libraries, festivals, or right here on our hatchery grounds. As the informal “outreach specialist” at the facility, I try to say yes to as many requests as possible. There is no doubt that keeping the public connected with the natural world around them is key to having their support of our mission to conserve, protect, and enhance it.

Gavins Point outreach statistics from 2022 serve as an example. I set up an exhibit or gave a presentation at 18 different off-site events, interacting with over 1,600 people. Another 1,900+ took an official tour of the hatchery, attended our youth fishing events, or participated in other guided educational activities on the facility grounds.

Sam Stukel holds a whopper of an American bullfrog at an outreach event.

One piece of equipment that had been lacking for many of these events was a high quality, portable, rain and shade shelter. This is especially true of festival-type exhibits, where the events can last 3+ hours and are held under the hot summer sun. A typical exhibit will include several species of (live) reptiles, amphibians, and fish – as well as at least one shade-appreciating human! Having worked with small, budget-level pop-up shelters in the past, the bumps and bruises of travel combined with the infamous South Dakota wind meant these low-cost shelters did not last too long. Further, I continue to try and enhance the professionalism of my exhibit, and the small, randomly colored, flimsy, budget shelters were not helping.

2019 Gavins Point NFH outreach exhibit. It was in desperate need of an upgrade!

Upgrading to a larger (10x15’), custom printed, heavy-duty shelter had been on my list for several years. The price was hard to justify, with all the other needs here at the hatchery. So, it was exciting to see the email announcing the availability of outreach grants from the Fish and Aquatic Conservation Fish Funds Program. This piece of badly needed gear came to mind immediately, and fortunately was selected to be funded.

The shelter’s first use came at the Family Fun Day festival in Yankton, South Dakota. I exhibit at this event annually and know it is a good way to connect with a lot of families with younger children. It also happens to be held in a treeless park, in the middle of July. Keeping the animals cool is always a struggle.

The first visitors to the new portable outreach shelter for Gavins Point NFH.

The extra 50 square feet of space afforded by the new larger shelter allowed me to keep the entire exhibit in the shade, plus provide a little relief for the kids. The shelter features 12 USFWS logos, plus the name of our facility, which will hopefully reduce the number of times we are mistaken for South Dakota Department of Game, Fish, and Parks! Plus, it looks sharp and is constructed of much heavier materials than previous models. This is a shelter that should serve us well both on and off site for many years.

This work was supported by a grant from the Fish and Aquatic Conservation Fish Funds program. Participation in outdoor activities like hunting, fishing, hiking, and birding connect people with nature and empower the next generation of conservationists.

FWS Biologist Sam Stukel's daughters enjoy the shade from a new outreach exhibit canopy shelter.

Story Tags

Education outreach
Environmental education
Fish hatcheries

Recreational Activities