Everglades Wonder Gardens
LASN January 2017 Stewardship

By Michael Miyamoto, LASN


The Everglades Wonder Gardens in Bonita Springs, Fla., closed in 2013, but a nonprofit organization purchased the property in 2015 and is currently revamping the historic site. Waldrop Engineering, P.A., also of Bonita Springs, drafted a master plan pro bono to guide the redevelopment process. While some areas of the site have been reconstructed, most of it is still a work in progress.
Image credit: Ryan Binkowski, PLA and vice president, and Jack Caldwell, PLA and project manager, Waldrop Engineering, P.A.

After years of declining patronage, followed by closure in 2013, the historic Everglades Wonder Gardens in Bonita Springs, Fla. -- a lush 3.5-acre botanical jungle -- are making a comeback. Waldrop Engineering, P.A., a land development and consulting firm, also located in Bonita Springs, donated the master plan, as well as a site enhancement plan and 200 hours of labor, to redevelop the park.

Brothers Bill and Lester Piper started Wonder Gardens in 1936 as a project of passion and preservation. At one time, it was a prominent fixture in southwest Florida. Patrons could see rare species of plants from around the world, and many wildlife exhibits were there as well.

Visitation began to decline in the 1950s, and it continued to fall in the 1960s because of the theme park industry. The gardens closed in 2013, after 77 years of operation. A nonprofit organization was formed in 2015 under the name Bonita Wonder Gardens. With financial assistance from the city of Bonita Springs, the nonprofit purchased the property and is restoring the once popular park.

The gardens are slowly being reborn, and the plan is to redevelop it in phases, as funding becomes available. "Efforts to implement the master plan have already been undertaken, beginning with restructuring the entryway where visitors gain access to the site," said Eric Bechler, PLA, and Ryan Binkowski, PLA, both of Waldrop.

As seen in LASN magazine, January 2017.

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September 23, 2017, 11:25 am PDT

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