The public is invited to experience the new 21-acre Conservancy of Southwest Florida Nature Center during a two-day Grand Reopening Weekend Festival April 20-21 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The newly renovated, $20 million Conservancy of Southwest Florida Nature Center, located  off of Goodlette-Frank Road just south of the zoo in Naples, is designed to raise awareness of the importance of protecting the water, land, and wildlife in the region.The weekend festivities include special exhibits, educational programs and speakers, including renowned oceanographer and Saturday’s keynote speaker Dr. Sylvia Earle from National Geographic. The event includes music, games, arts and crafts, live entertainment and special activities for children and adults. Food, beverage and additional vendors will be on-site throughout the weekend as well.  For more information including a schedule of events for the Conservancy of Southwest Florida Grand Reopening Weekend Festival visit or call the Grand Reopening Hotline at 239-430-2466.

In addition to special events and exhibits, attendees can experience the new Conservancy Nature Center which begins at the new entrance, Smith Preserve Way, just south of the Naples Zoo on Goodlette-Frank Road, where guests can spot native species, including endangered gopher tortoises, meandering through the Christopher B. Smith upland preserve. Inside the new Dalton Discovery Center, guests can experience several “natural” Southwest Florida ecosystems featuring interactive exhibits, a near

Smith Preserve Way, the new entrance to the Conservancy of Southwest Florida (photo courtesy Dennis Goodman)

-shore touch tank exploration and a live loggerhead sea turtle in a 5,000 gallon patch reef tank. In the new von Arx Wildlife Hospital, Nature Center guests can observe baby animals in the nursery and learn about animal care. The Shorebird Pool, home to wading birds in their last stages of recovery, is also viewable to the public. Eaton Conservation Hall and the Jeannie Meg Smith Theater offer a state of the art multi-media experience with presentations, programs, featured speakers and more. The new Ferguson Learning Lab is home to the Conservancy of Southwest Florida STEM Institute, where hands-on environmental studies incorporate the latest in science, technology, engineering and math disciplines. At the Allyn Family Lagoon and Dock, guests can search for wildlife and perhaps spot a manatee on a leisurely electric boat cruise or rent a kayak for a closer look at nature in a mangrove-lined lagoon up to the Gordon River. Guests can explore the secrets of how the Shotwell Wavering Family Filter Marsh cleans and purifies water and view visiting wading birds and wildlife from the gazebo.

Conservancy members are admitted for free to the festival. Special grand reopening admission for the weekend festival is just $10 for adults and $5 for children ages 3-12.  The public can join as a Conservancy member before or at the event and enjoy special benefits during the festival.  The event is free for children under 3. No onsite parking is available, as guests are asked to walk over the new Smith Preserve Way entrance.  Free parking is available at Colonial Square on Goodlette-Frank Road just south of 14th Avenue, with complimentary trolley service to and from the main festival entrance. Additional parking with trolley service is located at The Commons on Goodlette-Frank Rd. south of 14th Avenue. The first 50 attendees each day receive a free Grand Reopening Weekend Festival commemorative t-shirt. The presenting sponsor for the Grand Reopening Weekend Festival is Wells Fargo. Supporting sponsors are Bank of America, Waste Management, PNC Bank and Walmart.

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 not-for-profit grassroots organization focused on the critical environmental issues of the Southwest Florida region with a mission to protect the region’s water, land and wildlife.  This is accomplished through the combined efforts of environmental education, science, policy, and wildlife rehabilitation. The von Arx Wildlife Hospital treats in excess of 3,200 injured, sick and orphaned animals each year and releases about half of them back into their native habitats. Conservancy of Southwest Florida and Nature Center is located in Naples, Fla. at 1450 Merrihue Dr., off Goodlette-Frank Road at 14th Avenue North. The new Nature Center entrance, Smith Preserve Way, is now open and is located just south of Naples Zoo off Goodlette-Frank Road.  For information about the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, call 239-262-0304 or visit