The days of putting down buckets to combat the leaky roof, not having enough space to accommodate vast numbers of hunting enthusiasts and lacking a permanent structure to work from are over.
The California Department of Fish and Game on Oct. 20 will officially open its new Hunter Check Station at the North Grasslands Wildlife Area on Wolfsen Road. The $730,000 facility is a big improvement from the cramped trailer Fish and Game employees worked out of for years.
"Fish & Game doesn't get very many things that are brand-new. We worked out of the old trailer for many years and people had to climb the rickety stairs and we had to put our buckets out because the roof was leaking," said Terry Palmisano, Fish and Game program manager. "This will be great for staff and great for the public."
The new Hunter Check Station is about 1,400 square feet and features three windows, allowing hunters to be checked in simultaneously. The trailer Fish and Game operated out of previously barely had enough space for three people to be inside at once. The check station serves 7,700 to 8,400 people each season.
"The efficiency is really going to be improved. Each one of these windows will make up for that one area (inside the trailer)," said Chris Hildebrandt of Ducks Unlimited.
Hildebrandt said operating from the trailer meant that Fish and Game staff had to come to work early to get set up and be able to process the hundreds of visitors arriving to access the wildlife area.
Wildlife Habitat Supervisor Steve Miyamoto said many people come from out of state to access the wildlife area. He said being able to serve them better could mean more people visit, which could boost the economy in Los Banos.
Miyamoto said getting the new facility -- which was paid for through a combination of Wildlife Restoration funds and bond monies -- means that the building and restrooms in the area now comply with the Americans With Disabilities Act.
John Donnelly of the California Wildlife Conservation Board helped oversee the project.
"It made so much sense on so many levels to do this project," he said.
Palmisano said she is grateful to all of the agencies Fish and Game partnered with for the project.
"We built this wonderful building, we're thrilled to have it. But a building is only so much metal and wood, it's the staff that makes it happen," Palmisano said.
In addition to the Hunter Check Station, Fish and Game is also celebrating the 75th anniversary of a tax President Franklin D. Roosevelt put in place to collect funding to support conservation efforts.