Preserving Paradise: The Wonder Gardens Secures Its Future

SUSAN KOSCHALK April 16, 2024

Southwest Florida's oldest roadside attraction, The Wonder Gardens, formerly known as the Everglades Wonder Gardens, has cemented its place in Bonita Springs with a new operating agreement. Under this public-private partnership, the nonprofit will pay the city $50,000 annually in rent for the next decade and commit to at least $3 million in capital improvements. This agreement ensures the continuation of this iconic attraction that has been a staple in downtown Bonita Springs for decades.

"The Wonder Gardens is reminiscent of Old Florida, giving a connection to the past for our community," remarked Bonita Mayor Rick Steinmeyer. Founded in 1936 as the Everglades Reptile Gardens, The Wonder Gardens has evolved into a botanical garden and animal refuge housing over 300 rescued animals, including alligators, flamingos, parrots, and turtles. The attraction also boasts a diverse collection of native and exotic plants, making it a unique destination for visitors of all ages.

"We're so pleased to continue our relationship and collaboration with the City of Bonita Springs," said Wonder Gardens president and CEO Neil Anderson. "And (we) welcome the vision and commitment to honoring the Wonder Garden’s legacy as an iconic representation of Old Florida at its best, while ensuring its relevancy and sustainability as a beloved community institution in the heart of Bonita Springs."

The Wonder Gardens' journey to securing its future hasn't been without challenges. After a group of Southwest Florida residents formed the nonprofit Bonita Wonder Gardens, Inc. in 2015 to save the attraction from commercial development, the City took ownership of the land in 2018. However, this new agreement signifies a fresh start and collaborative effort between the City and The Wonder Gardens to preserve and enhance this beloved community treasure.

With the support of the City, The Wonder Gardens looks forward to updating and expanding its offerings while staying true to its roots. Plans include developing new exhibits, seeking accreditation from the Association of Zoos & Aquariums, and ensuring the Wonder Gardens remains a cherished destination for generations to come.

Visit The Wonder Gardens at 27180 Old 41 Road in Bonita Springs to experience the rich cultural legacy of Old Florida. For more information, call 239-992-2591 or visit wondergardens.org


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