Located on beautiful Sanibel Island, is this world renowned wildlife sanctuary. The land that the refuge currently occupies was petitioned for and claimed by the two time Pulitzer Prize winner Jay Norwood "Ding" Darling, in 1945. The foundation was established in 1982, by an intrepid group of island volunteers. Initially the center came about with the donation of $2,000 for the purchase of books to sell in the visitors center. Staff and site volunteers were brought on-board, trained and set about educating the curious public that would soon flood their doors. And flood they did, in the first month after opening, they welcomed over 11,000 nature lovers, eager to learn about the local habitat that is Southwest Florida. Membership in the society has grown from the original 7 to over 1,500.
Over the years they have been involved in a number of local efforts to protect our wildlife, educate and enlighten the public and government officials and to be advocates both on a national and local level, for the environment, clean water and the management of these natural resources. Just a few of these efforts over the years have been:
- Built a local visitors center
- Worked with SanCap Solar Connect to help limit the rates for solar energy conversion on the islands
- Raised funds for many new exhibits and trails, through their expansive property
- Helped fund a sea turtle display
- Helped financially with many post-hurricane clean-up efforts
- Built the education pavilion on the Cross Dike Trail
- Supports Lee County Schools with education, conservation scholarships
- Hosts field trips for local students
- and many, many more philanthropic and community projects
While in Southwest Florida, be sure to visit this hidden gem, among the islands of Sanibel and Fort Myers Beach.
Visit their website for more information tours and times.