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Lovers Key discovery center progressing

Construction of building enters final stages, fundraising continues for exhibits

By Nathan Mayberg - Editor | Nov 25, 2020

The Lovers Key State Park welcome and discovery center is nearing completion of its building though furnishing the center with exhibits is expected to take a few more months as fundraising continues.

The multi-million dollar welcome and discovery center at Lovers Key State Park is nearing completion of the construction phase, while the Friends of Lovers Key are still fundraising to furnish the interior of the complex which they hope to have ready by March, Friends of Lovers Key Executive Director Deb Voorhees said

The state legislature approved $4 million in funding for the construction while tasking the nonprofit with raising $1.5 million to install exhibits and other educational features.

Lovers Key State Park Manager Katie Moses said she expects the construction of the building (not including interior exhibits) to be completed within a few weeks. There is also a sewer line project

to hook the building up, which has been delayed due to permitting. Moses expects the sewer line project to be completed by April. Permits for the project are expected next month, she said.

Voorhees said the welcome center will include an environmental education program, community room, a 1,500 square-foot exhibit wall on five island ecosystems. There will be a timeline documenting regional events dating back to the native Calusa tribe’s time here. There will be a viewing deck to look out over the nearby canals.

The nonprofit has a contract with Split Rock Studios in Minnesota for the furnishings, Voorhees said.

The Friends of Lovers Key are selling these plush manatees to fundraise for the furnishing of the welcome and discovery center at Lovers Key State Park.

“It’s going to be a great resource for the community,” Voorhees said. “It will be a unique experience for our area.”

One of the donors for the discovery center also funded the production of a 13-minute documentary film which will be shown at the welcome center. The documentary, by Tom Jones of Estero-based Pelican Media, focuses on the environmental history of Lovers Key and the Barrier Islands.

The Friends of Lovers Key are currently in the midst of a fundraising campaign offering plush stuffed manatees with a four-page non-fiction story of imaginary manatees “Molly” and “Minnie” that was created by students from Florida Gulf Coast University, along with an “adoption certificate.” The Friends of Lovers Key have a collaborative partnership with the college’s civic engagement program “Trails for Tails,” Voorhees said. Voorhees said the leadership program is a prerequisite for graduating with honors at the university.

The plush manatees can be purchased at the ranger station of Lovers Key State Park for $20. The cost to order them is $28.

The hope is that the discovery center could be used to attract students and be a site for future enrichment programs, Voorhees said. Voorhees has a background in working with nonprofits and nonprofit development. She estimated that the organization has raised about 75% of its goal. There are still opportunities to donate for naming rights and for the donor wall, she said.

The Lovers Key State Park welcome and discovery center is nearing completion of its building though furnishing the center with exhibits is expected to take a few more months as fundraising continues.

Voorhees can be reached at Capitalcampaign@friendsofloverskey.org.

The park’s tram line down to the beach has been sidelined the past week, due to the effects of Hurricane Eta washing out part of the beach. The beach is still open though you will have to walk down over the bridges to get there. Moses said the tram circle area is being leveled out so it is not as wet and so the trams don’t get stuck. “A lot of sand got deposited there,” Moses said.

Eagle Trail and Service Road Trail have been closed due to the construction of the discovery center.