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Conservancy of Southwest Florida Nature Center Re-Opens November 1 at 10:30 AM

NAPLES, Fla. (August 26, 2010) – Conservancy of Southwest Florida Nature Center will reopen on November 1 at 10:30 AM. New operating hours are 10:30 AM – 4:30 PM Monday through Saturday only.

When the Nature Center reopens on November 1 at 10:30 AM, the Discovery Center and Wildlife Viewing Area will remain closed as their renovations continue. However, guests will be able to enjoy a new series of regular daily programming on the new Commons Area deck and in the “Nature Zone,” a temporary, indoor “Mini Discovery Center” featuring live reptiles and a near-shore touch tank. The programming includes:

  • Hourly education programs offered on the deck 11 AM – 4 PM
  • The “Nature Zone,” which is a “mini” Discovery Center will open in the current “Resource Room;” Touch Tank talks will run every half hour from 10:30 AM -3:30 PM and guests can do self-guided tours from 10:30 AM – 4:30 PM.
  • Guided Nature Walks available Mondays – Fridays at 1 PM.
  • Animal encounters offered at a "sunning station" throughout the day, but times and animals will differ each day.
  • Electric boat cruises for guests run hourly: 12 noon, 1 PM, 2 PM, 3 PM Monday – Friday.
  • On Saturdays, electric boat rides will be available hourly beginning at 11 AM, 12 noon, 1 PM, 2 PM and 3 PM.
  • Kayak rentals.
  • The Conservancy Nature Center and the Nature Store will close at 4:30 PM.
  • Monthly themes will change program offerings each month.
  • The Conservancy is introducing “Spectacular Saturdays”: special events and educational programming that include crafts, games, Gordon the Eagle, etc. and will be offered each Saturday at 11 AM and 2 PM, with a coloring station opened in between those times.
  • Admission is FREE for Conservancy members. Adults: $9; Children 12 and Under: $4.

“We’re making great progress on the new Nature Center,” said Andrew McElwaine, president and CEO of the Conservancy of Southwest Florida. “Once completed, sometime in 2012, guests will be able to enjoy one of the most complete experiences of the Southwest Florida environment and leave with the understanding of why it is so important to protect our water, land and wildlife.”

McElwaine added, “In the meantime, the Conservancy Environmental Education team has put together a great plan for guests to enjoy themselves at the Nature Center. The team is also working on many exceptional and unique outdoor environmental field trips and excursions.”


The public is encouraged to check on a regular basis for updates on new Conservancy programs and activities.

The renovations continue as part of the Conservancy of Southwest Florida “Saving Southwest Florida” Capital Campaign and will transform the 21-acre Conservancy Nature Center into a model for sustainable design and environmental responsibility. A new entrance will be available from Goodlette-Frank Road. The new Conservancy Campus will include two new buildings: the Sugden Gomez Environmental Planning Center and von Arx Wildlife Clinic. Three other buildings will undergo extensive renovations: Dalton Discovery Center, Eaton Conservation Hall featuring the Jeannie Meg Smith Theater, and the Ferguson Interactive Learning Lab. Other sustainable features include several new filter marshes designed to enhance Gordon River and Naples Bay water quality. Plans for the new Nature Center can be found at Construction is expected to be complete in early 2012.

For those interested in being a part of the “Saving Southwest Florida” Campaign, numerous naming opportunities at different levels are still available. For more information on naming opportunities, contact Rob Moher, vice-president of development and marketing for the Conservancy of Southwest Florida at 239-403-4205.

About the Conservancy of Southwest Florida Sustainable Campus Initiative:

The Conservancy of Southwest Florida has begun a new sustainable campus initiative launched in April 2009 as part of its Saving Southwest Florida Capital Campaign. The 21-acre Conservancy Nature Center is being transformed into a model for sustainable design and environmental responsibility, with Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design standards for both buildings and the Nature Center. Once completed, the new Conservancy of Southwest Florida Nature Center will include two new buildings and three major rehabilitation project.

  • A new Wildlife Clinic with more space, improved treatment areas and modern equipment
  • Totally remodeled Discovery Center with new and exciting environmental exhibits
  • A new Environmental Planning Center with updated research laboratories
  • Conservation Hall and theater will be created from the existing auditorium space and will be used for increased environmental education programming, meetings and events
  • Interactive Learning Lab for hands-on learning about environmental topics and sustainability
  • Two constructed wetlands areas serving as natural filter marshes to cleanse storm water before being released into the Gordon River and Naples Bay
  • New trails, gardens and walkways with native landscaping
  • New environmental education and programming

The project also includes a new entrance to the Conservancy Nature Center, Smith Preserve Way, from Goodlette-Frank Road that will bring the vision of a “Naples Central Park” closer to reality. The new entrance will potentially provide access to the Gordon River Greenway Park and the Naples Zoo.

Green building practices, sustainability features and best management practices are being incorporated into all aspects of the construction and building designs. Key features include:

  • All new buildings will be built to rigorous LEED standards.
  • LEED standards will be applied across the overall for Nature Center.
  • Water conservation will be emphasized and best management practices for stormwater management applied. Storm water will be captured for re-use or filtered before naturally flowing into the Gordon River.
  • Energy efficiency will be incorporated at every opportunity with a multi-year goal to achieve “net zero” energy cost.

The project is being funded through the ongoing multi-million dollar capital campaign. Campus construction will be phased over several years to minimize the impact on Conservancy guests and staff. Completion is expected sometime in the first quarter of 2012.

The construction project team members bring a variety of backgrounds and specialization in sustainable design, advanced building construction and applied technology to the project. All contractors working on the project have achieved or are pursuing personal LEED accreditation. The construction partners all have adapted their own business philosophies and practices to meet the demands of the project. They also have committed to using their experience with sustainability practices on the Conservancy campus to extend that concept into future projects for other Southwest Florida clients. Team members include:

  • Curtis Cafiso, Conservancy of Southwest Florida (Project Executive)
  • Keith Predmore, Keith Predmore & Associates (Owner’s Representative)
  • Casey Neurock, Neugreen LLC (LEED Consultant)
  • Fernando Zabala and Brian Leaders, Larry Warner Architects (Master Planning and Building Design) and the late Larry Warner
  • Alex Lopez, JALRW Engineering Group (MEP Engineers)
  • Derry Berrigan, DBLD Sustainable Lighting Design (LED Lighting)
  • Peter Kuttner, Cambridge 7 Associates (Discovery Center Exhibit Design and Campus Interpretive Design)
  • Walter Crawford, Heatherwood Construction (Construction Managers)
  • Frank Feeney, Hole Montes (Civil Engineer)

High resolution images of the new Nature Center and building renderings are available to the media by contacting Barbara Wilson, Conservancy director of marketing and communications:; or 239-403-4216.

About the Conservancy of Southwest Florida:

The Conservancy of Southwest Florida began in 1964 when community leaders came together to defeat a proposed "Road to Nowhere" and spearheaded the acquisition and protection of Rookery Bay.

The Conservancy is a grassroots organization focused on the critical environmental issues of the Southwest Florida region. Partnering with like-minded organizations, the Conservancy works to manage growth and protect area waters, land and wildlife. The Conservancy of Southwest Florida promotes sound environmental policies and practices based on solid scientific research while providing environmental education to residents and visitors. The Wildlife Clinic treats more than 2,400 injured, sick and orphaned animals each year and releases about half back into their native habitats.

The Conservancy of Southwest Florida and Conservancy Nature Center are located in Naples, Florida at 1450 Merrihue Drive, off Goodlette-Frank Road at 14th Avenue North. For information about the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, call 239-262-0304 or visit

Media Contact

Barbara Wilson, Conservancy of Southwest Florida, 239-403-4216 or


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