The Society of American Travel Writers awarded the J.N. ‘Ding’ Darling National Wildlife Refuge their prestigious “Phoenix” award. The purpose of the Phoenix Award is to give appropriate recognition for  Individuals or Organizations actively involved in conservation,  preservation, beautification and anti-pollution campaigns which further  the growth and appeal of North American travel destinations. J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge opened in 1945 as the  Sanibel National Wildlife Refuge.  Today the refuge protects more than  7,600 acres of preserved water and land, and hosts nearly 800,000  visitors annually year.  They come to visit the free education center  built by the friends group (“Ding” Darling Wildlife Society), drive or  bike the 4-mile Wildlife Drive, hike nature trails, board narrated tram  and boating tours, paddle the backwaters, fish, and climb the  observation tour to photograph some of the 272 species of birds that  have been spotted, including the iconic roseate spoonbill.  In 2011 it  unveiled the first-of-its-kind iNature Trail along Wildlife Drive.   Using QR code and smartphone/tablet technology, it gives visitors an  interactive refuge tour by linking to custom filmed YouTube videos.  A  committee member wrote:  “Without this refuge, Sanibel would not be the  environmentally sound island that it is.”