Representatives from J. N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge, the "Ding" Darling Wildlife Society-Friends of the Refuge, and Sanibel School gathered recently with donors and green architect Amy Nowacki to break ground for the long-anticipated Childrens Education Boardwalk that will connect school and refuge property on Sanibel.
Donations for the project came from the Jim Sprankle Duck Decoy Exhibit sponsorships, the George and Miriam Martin Foundation, a bequest from the late Syril Rubin, memorials to the late Win Kloosterman, a contribution from the Sanibel Captiva Trust Company, and many individuals from throughout the country.
From a locked gate on school property, the boardwalk will cross a brackish wetland currently inaccessible to the public en route to the refuge's Indigo Trail. It will give school children and visitors up-close views of alligators, wading birds, and more.
Computer rendering of the boardwalk's observation deck.
The boardwalk, expected to be completed by early April, will be accessible to the public from the refuge. It will meander through mangroves and expand into an in-the-round venue to accommodate up to 25 students and other groups.
The project is one of only a handful of school-refuge partnerships in the nation that are physically connected by an educational boardwalk, according to supervisory Refuge Ranger Toni Westland.
"We are so pleased to be getting under way with this project that so many have worked and contributed selflessly to make a reality," said DDWS president John McCabe. "We know it will be a valuable tool in our mission to educate visitors of all ages about the importance of preserving the environment."
As a non-profit 501(c)3 organization, DDWS works to support the refuge's mission of conservation, wildlife and habitat protection, research, and public education through charitable donations and Refuge Nature Shop proceeds.