When planning the large-scale transformation of the Conservancy of Southwest Florida’s Nature Center, not one penny of the $20 million creation was used in vain. From the wood planked entrance that bridges a natural Gopher Tortoise sanctuary to the intricately planned Dalton Discovery Center, information and learning tools are available at every turn. The Conservancy, located just south of the Naples Zoo on Goodlette Frank Rd., unveiled its ingenious architectural center over the weekend of April 20th and 21st.
With the word “conservancy” in its name, there was no doubt that this would be the thought process when developing the new center. From the electric boat tours to re-using old wall panels to the development of a filter marsh locatedon the east end of the facility, everything was done with Mother Nature in mind.
CEO of the Conservancy, Andrew McElwaine even pointed out the solar lights used over the “touch tank” in the Discover Center. “It was fun at first to try and watch [the employees] shut those lights off at closing time!” he jokes, as the power of the sun charges the giant lights.
Thousands came to see this transformation that has been years in the making. They watched live presentations and movies in the new Eaton Conservation Hall. They visited the Ferguson Learning Lab – a center for field trips and learning activities for children.
The Von Ark Wildlife Hospital, where the Conservancy rescues anything from opossoms to turtles to pelicans, nowhas a nursery viewing area. Visitors have the chance to see the smallest of critters being cared for by a loyal staff of volunteers. Round the corner and the pelican sanctuary awaits. Many of the birds are rehabilitating and will be released; some, with injuries too serious, will spend the rest of their days in the cozy pond courtesy of the Conservancy.
And then there’s the Dalton Discovery Center. Walk in and you will be greeted by our friendly state of Florida. A movie plays on the state describing the change in the natural flow of Florida’s ecosystems over time. Its images are stunning and the information is surprising.
Then it’s time to take a tour through the ecosystems of Florida – starting atthe top. The uplands of Florida leads to the Everglades which run into the mangroves. Move through the mangroves into the beaches ecosystem and finally to the ocean. A young female loggerhead sea turtle in a large tank full of fish awaits to be viewed and admired. Endless infomation is available within every ecosystem section, whether it be on the walls, in the tanks, on videos, through pushing buttons and again, through volunteers.
The Conservancy boasts over 400 volunteers who help run the Nature Center and Gift Shop, open 9:30 to 4:30, Monday through Saturday. Admission is free for members and $12.95 for nonmembers; $8.95 for children 12 and under.
To learn more about the Conservancy of Florida, its changes, studies and science, visit www.conservancy.org or call 239-0304.