- Associated Press - Sunday, March 8, 2015

BONITA SPRINGS, Fla. (AP) - The 79-year-old Everglades Wonder Gardens in Bonita Springs has been saved thanks to work by a nonprofit group.

The Fort Meyers News-Press (https://newspr.es/1NwUEVM ) reported on Sunday that the local landmark was threatened when the family that owned the property decided to sell the land.

With help from Bonita Springs and volunteers, a nonprofit group was able to negotiate a deal to buy Wonder Gardens and takeover its operation.

“It’s just exciting,” Bonita Wonder Gardens President Trish Leonard told the newspaper.

Leonard said the nonprofit is doing its due diligence and completing inventory before a March 18 meeting when Bonita Springs City Council for final approval to a three-year, $3.5 million loan. The group hopes to pay the city back quickly.



The move will ensure the property remains undeveloped.

The property is home trees, plants and local artifacts as was well as 40 alligators and seven flamingos.

Since August, Wonder Gardens has a revamped its gift store and more changes are planned. The butterfly exhibit is being upgraded and signage throughout the grounds is being refreshed.

“I’m happy,” said volunteer Mary Painter, who gives tours of the gardens.

“The gardens are for children of every age. They are what we need to stay connected to what matters on Earth.”

The group’s next step is a series of fundraisers for additional improvements to the attraction.

Gardens Vice President Dennis Gilkey said he he tries to sell everyone he meets on the idea and potential of the park.

“It’s the type of thing you just have to see it,” he said. “This is worth saving.”

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Information from: The (Fort Myers, Fla.) News-Press, https://www.news-press.com

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