The Conservancy of Southwest Florida hosted a ceremonial presentation to mark the start of major renovations of the new Sue and Bill Dalton Discovery Center, the next phase of its sustainable campus initiative and “Saving Southwest Florida” Capital Campaign. Made possible by a lead gift to the Campaign by Sue and Bill Dalton, the Dalton Discovery Center will include seven galleries featuring southwest Florida’s major ecosystems, immersive and technology-rich learning, hands-on animal encounters, and opportunities to take action to protect our land, water, and wildlife.  

To mark the commencement of the project, the Daltons presented gold ceremonial “keys to the future” to Village School art students in recognition of their recent creation of an “under the sea” mural, currently on display in the Conservancy Nature Zone. Conservancy staff, board members, Campaign Committee members, donors and government officials also participated.

“The Dalton Discovery Center will provide guests with an interactive opportunity to discover the diversity of Florida’s ecosystems,” said the Daltons. “In addition, guests will have the opportunity to make their own personal commitment to protecting our land, our wildlife, our future. Today’s presentation of the ‘keys’ to the Village School students symbolizes the commitment that these students have made, inspiring each of us to do our part. Together we are opening doors to educating others about ways to protect Florida’s future.”

During the event the juvenile female loggerhead sea turtle that has been provided a home at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida Nature Center since April 1, 2009 visited its future “home.” According to Conservancy education staff, the turtle now weighs 5.5 pounds and measures 10 inches in length. Once completed, the sea turtle will live temporarily in a 5000-gallon ocean aquarium at the Dalton Discovery Center until its eventual release back into the wild. The loggerhead turtle will be one of more than approximately 100 animal species including juvenile American alligators and tropical fish, who will inhabit the Dalton Discovery Center.

“The Dalton Discovery Center will be a significant enhancement to our Nature Center, enabling us to both educate and entertain our guests with live animals and interactive programs,” says Andrew McElwaine, president and CEO of the Conservancy of Southwest Florida. “We are grateful to the Daltons for their generous leadership gift and to all of our donors, members, volunteers and the community for their ongoing support and dedication to the ‘Saving Southwest Florida’ Capital Campaign.”

Other major donors helping to fund the Dalton Discovery Center include the Andrew Foundation, John and Donna Hall, Jenny and Kermit Sutton, Bob and Connie Heidrick, Barbara and Larry Wilson, Sam Schwartz and our own Conservancy Volunteer Connection. Completion of the Dalton Discovery Center is estimated for 2011. In the interim, the temporary Nature Zone will remain operational offering guests a live animal encounter featuring baby alligators, snakes, turtles and a near-shore touch tank.

For others interested in being a part of the campus renovation project, additional naming opportunities are still available. Information can be found at http://www.conservancy.org/

About the Conservancy of Southwest Florida Sustainable Campus Initiative:

The Conservancy of Southwest Florida sustainable campus initiative was 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)
  • 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 Dalton Discovery Center renderings are available to the media by contacting Barbara Wilson, Director of Marketing and Communications: barbaraw@conservancy.org; or 239-403-4216.

More information about the “Saving Southwest Florida” Capital Campaign is available at www.conservancy.org/campaign

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 http://www.conservancy.org/.