Conservancy Nature Center's reopening shows vast exhibitions of Southwest Florida's natural wealth

William DeShazer/Staff 
 Guests tour the Susan and William Dalton Discovery Center at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida on Friday April 12, 2013.

Photo by WILLIAM DESHAZER, Naples Daily News // Buy this photo

William DeShazer/Staff Guests tour the Susan and William Dalton Discovery Center at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida on Friday April 12, 2013.

Mother Nature has gotten a $20 million facelift, and the results are on display this weekend.

The Conservancy of Southwest Florida is celebrating its grand reopening Saturday and Sunday to show off the results of a years-long, extensive refurbishing of the Conservancy Nature Center funded by a portion of the group’s capital campaign. Located off Goodlette-Frank Road in Naples just south of the Naples Zoo, the 21-acre Nature Center contains a host of new and updated exhibits, activities and working spaces, and this weekend it is offering an unprecedented peek behind the scenes.

In addition to reduced admission (free for Conservancy members) at all the facilities, a busy schedule of special events will emphasize various facets of our natural habitat, nature in general and the Conservancy’s role in protecting it. On Saturday at noon, oceanographer, explorer and author Sylvia Earle will speak. Leader of 50 expeditions and veteran of over 6.000 hours underwater, Earle served as chief scientist for NOAA, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, and founded a company that developed undersea vehicles to allow scientists to work at previously inaccessible depths.

Her talk will christen the new Jeanie Meg Smith Theater in the Eaton Conservation Hall, In keeping with the Conservancy’s green ethos, the theater is paneled with pecky cypress planks recycled from the old Lutgert Commons. The Nature Center incorporates many innovative energy-saving and environmental technologies, and all new buildings are LEED-certified.

If you prefer your natural experience outdoors with music, a favorite local “newgrass” band, the Whole Tones, will play at the same time as Earle’s talk. Hospital director Joanna Fitzgerald and veterinarian Dr. P.J. Deitschel will give presentations on the work of the Conservancy’s von Arx Wildlife Hospital, and Sanibel author Charles Sobczak will discuss the “Natural Treasures of Collier County” at the Shotwell Wavering Family Filter Marsh. The weekend offers dozens of similar events.

“I hope people remember we’re not just a nature center,” said Conservancy president and CEO Andrew McElwaine. McElwaine. “We operate year ’round with scientific research, public policy advocacy, and our wildlife clinic.”

IF YOU GO

Conservancy Grand Reopening Weekend Festival

When: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, April 20-21, Click here for a full events schedule

Where: Conservancy of Southwest Florida, 1450 Merrihue Drive, Naples

Cost: $10 for adults and $5 for ages 3-12. Conservancy members free

Parking: Free parking with trolley service at Colonial Square and the Commons on Goodlette-Frank Road south of 14th Avenue. See map

More info: www.conservancy.org/grandreopening

Special events:

Saturday

10 a.m.: New Conservancy film screening, Eaton Conservation Hall/Jeannie Meg Smith Theater

10:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m.: Kids’ Corner programs, a new one each half hour,at Wheeler Education Field

10:30 a.m.: Vet and wildlife talk with P.J. Deitschel, D.W.M. and Hospital Director Joanna Fitzgerald, von Arx Wildlife Hospital

11:30 a.m.-1 p.m.: Whole Tones Band main stage, Wheeler Education Field

11:30 a.m. and 3 p.m.: Presentación de Fauna en Español: Windfeldt Shorebird Pool

Noon: Sylvia Earle presentation, Eaton Conservation Hall/Jeannie Meg Smith Theater

1 p.m.: “Natural Treasures of Collier County,” Shotwell Wavering Family Filter Marsh

1 p.m.: Gopher tortoise talk, Smith Preserve Gazebo

2 p.m. and 3 p.m.: Awards and programs, main stage, Wheeler Education Field

Sunday

10 a.m.: New Conservancy film screening, Eaton Conservation Hall/Jeannie Meg Smith Theater

10:30 a.m., 11:30 a.m., 1 p.m., 2 p.m. : Kids’ Corner activities at Wheeler Education Field

10:30 a.m.: Golf-putting course, von Arx Wildlife Hospital

11 a.m.: Programs each hour, main stage at Wheeler Education Field

11 a.m.: “About Birds,” Eaton Conservation Hall/Jeannie Meg Smith Theater

11 a.m. and 2 p.m.: Presentación de Fauna en Español, Windfeldt Shorebird Pool

11:30 a.m. and 3 p.m.: Sylvia Earle video, Eaton Conservation Hall/Jeannie Meg Smith Theater

11:30 a.m.: Children’s and family activities each hour on the half, von Arx Wildlife Hospital

Noon: Artist Paul Arsenault, painting live, Shotwell Wavering Family Filter Marsh

12:30 p.m, 1 and 2:30 p.m.: “Sharks” presentation, Conservancy video presentation, “Healthy Food, Healthy Planet” talk, Eaton Conservation Hall/Jeannie Meg Smith Theater

1 p.m.: Gopher tortoise talk, Smith Preserve Gazebo

2:30 p.m.: “Keeping Our Water Clean,” Shotwell Wavering Family Filter Marsh

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