Nearly a month after Hurricane Ian devastated the landscaping and buildings at 86-year-old Wonder Gardens in Bonita Springs prompting a massive volunteer cleanup and fundraising effort, the gardens will reopen to the public from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Thursday. The Wonder Gardens will continue to be open daily from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. until at least Nov. 1, when regular hours of 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. may resume.
“Thanks to the generous help of our community and volunteers, we are able to welcome visitors back and continue to educate people on the rescued and non-releasable animal residents we care for at Wonder Gardens,” said Sarah Williamson, retail and communications manager for Wonder Gardens. “We have also received numerous physical and monetary donations to help rebuild and renew our park as well as replace items lost during the hurricane. We are so thankful for the support of the Southwest Florida community and beyond.”
In 10 organized workdays after the storm, 177 volunteers put in more than 800 hours clearing debris and trash, moving furniture and gift shop merchandise, cleaning and repairing. Their efforts resulted in the equivalent of $24,509 in donated time (calculated at 2022 national volunteer hourly rate of $29.95). Of the volunteers, 142 were new and averaged about 3.55 hours per person, 21 were from Florida Gulf Coast University and 14 were regular Wonder Gardens volunteers.
“The outpouring of support by so many has truly been a humbling and inspiring journey the last few weeks,” said Neil Anderson, who started as executive director at the Wonder Gardens in August. “We are so thankful and blessed.”
While the gardens have been deemed safe for visitors, the welcome center, gift shop, administrative offices and animal care kitchen remain non-operational due to water and wind damage. One of the large historic signs that was recently repainted and refreshed was blown down. The Animal Care Kitchen and refrigerators were lost, so the public donated animal food and supplies.
A fund established for rebuilding and repairs raised $10,000, which was matched by the Billy the Bee Foundation. Funds continue to be raised for another $5,000 matching challenge made by donors Judith & James MacGregor. For information about fundraising needs or to donate, visit wondergardens.org/hurricane-ian/.
Additionally, Brews for the Birds, which had been scheduled for Oct. 14, has been rescheduled to Dec. 9. WonderWeen, the second annual safe and fun outdoor Halloween event, will be held as planned Oct. 30 from noon to 2 p.m. Local businesses will pass out candy, along with children’s games and prizes. Members and Bonita Springs Residents receive free admission. All other visitors pay regular admission. For information: wondergardens.org/wonderween-2022.
About Wonder Gardens
The Wonder Gardens, a charitable zoological park and botanical garden in Bonita Springs, is home to rescued birds and reptiles nestled among sprawling banyan trees and plantings. While preserving the best of this site’s 86-year history, the nonprofit cares for more than 300 resident animals, is upgrading wildlife enclosures and growing the botanical beauty of the property, while delivering education programs and events and further engaging the community to enjoy this jewel in historic Downtown Bonita Springs. The Wonder Gardens at 27180 Old 41 Road, Bonita Springs is one of the few remaining cornerstones of Old Florida, an enduring symbol of the history of the region, as well as a resource for learning about the environment and wildlife. For information, visit wondergardens.org or call 239-992-2591.