Everglades Wonder Gardens No Longer in Limbo

Read on to see what will become of the historic Bonita Springs attraction.

BY April 14, 2015


It was, well, a wonderful evening at Bonita Spring’s historic Everglades Wonder Gardens last night.

A nonprofit board of directors officially took ownership of the 3.5-acre botanical jungle, ensuring it will not die the same death as so many of Florida’s other old roadside attractions.

“The possibilities are endless, endless,” board president Trish Leonard said on her way to sign papers yesterday conferring ownership to her board, the Bonita Wonder Gardens.

A $3.5 million loan from the City of Bonita Springs allowed the board to purchase the property from the Piper family, which established the gardens in 1936 as a place to rehabilitate injured animals. It grew into a botanical garden, a refuge for gators, flamingos and old-growth trees.

The attraction’s fate was uncertain a couple of years ago when the family had to close it. Photographer John Brady stepped in to manage the property and run his gallery there. He will continue to exhibit in the main building while the new board determines how it wants to use the buildings on site. The Piper family owned many historic artifacts that board members would like to put back on display.

The new board has a big vision for transforming the place—while maintaining its Old Florida charm. Leonard says members are considering new infrastructure such as a wedding gazebo, a children’s education facility and an enhanced butterfly garden (renderings below). Enhancements there feed into a broader city effort to redevelop the downtown area along Old U.S. 41, Leonard adds.

“Really, it’ll be a catalyst for developing the downtown area,” Leonard says.


Pictured in the photograph (L to R) are John and Maggie Brady; Dennis Gilkey; Trish Leonard. Photo courtesy of David Michael Photography.



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