So long, 2018, we hardly knew ya

Life is a roller coaster.  I know I’m not the first person to recognize that, but as the years pass, that metaphor gets more and more real to me.  It’s not just the ups and downs, but the speed at which the darned thing is moving.

I find it hard to believe 2018 is over already.  I can remember as a child, time would often seem to come to a standstill.  The long, lazy days of summer seemed like they would stretch on forever.  Then a new school year would finally begin, and the excitement of different classes, teachers, and classmates would unleash a sharp bank to the right with a whirlwind of activity and new experiences.  (Come now, you can’t be surprised that I was one of those kids that actually liked school, can you?)

Now the years seem to pass by ever more quickly.  I hope that doesn’t mean I’m “over the hill” and careening into my twilight years.  In my head I’m still 28 and always have been (even as a child I was preternaturally mature about most things.)  But the mirror tells a different story as I approach the second anniversary of my 29th birthday.

Maybe the passage of time is distorted by the amount of activity and responsibility in our lives.  2018 was a busy time at Peace River Wildlife Center, although by outward appearances it may seem like not much was accomplished.  It appears we are still in the planning stages of our new facility.  But that’s not entirely correct.  We have scrapped the initial plans and started over with the envisioning of an even better facility.  The new and improved PRWC will serve the community in ways that the original never could have imagined.

We have been stalled in our efforts to rebuild our facility and have been frustrated by the perceived lack of progress towards that end.  The bright side of the delay has been the overwhelming generosity of the community to our Capital Campaign.  We stand at over $1.3 million raised for our new home.

With the numerous holidays celebrated the last two months of the year, there will be further delays as we apply for permits and reimagine our dream.  But with a new engineer on board, we expect to start making real progress in the months to come.  With a groundbreaking date of April 2020 for the new PRWC center, we are anxious to make this new facility bigger and better for our visitors and resident animals alike.

While it seems that ground-breaking in 2020 is a long way off, all that activity will undoubtedly make 2019 fly by.  And the truly exciting news is that we can begin a portion of the project much sooner.

We hope to find an off-site property to which we can relocate the rehabilitation portion of our facility.  For many reasons, this is an ideal solution to the challenges we face.  It will give us more room for exhibits, so our resident animals will have better forever homes.  Hopefully we will be able to get even more education animals as a result and enhance the experience for visitors.

The governing boards, both state and federal, prefer that rehabilitation of wildlife be done far away from the general public.  Currently, many of our rehabilitating birds can occasionally see and hear the visitors, even though the public can’t see them.  It is not an ideal situation but one that has arisen as PRWC has outgrown our facilities over the years.

Another exciting addition to the new PRWC will include an education center.  We look forward to having a meeting room, kiosks featuring native Florida wildlife facts, and a larger gift shop.  We also plan to have video feed from the hospital to bring some of the behind-the-scenes activities to life.

For those of you feeling frustrated that there has been no tangible evidence of PRWC’s growth over the past year, I assure you that nothing could be further from the truth.  We are growing by leaps and bounds.  We have asked the community to support our dream and we want to make sure their faith in us is well placed.

The coming year will be a time of planning and permitting, meetings and minutia.  We are working with our engineer (Wheiler Engineering Corporation) and architects (ADG Architecture) to build something of which Punta Gorda can be proud.

Our 2020 vision is one of planned growth that will be sustainable for many years to come.  There’s no sense in building something that will not support its purpose even before it’s finished.  We appreciate the support of the community and assure you all that the facility we are planning will be an asset to the entire region.

So, buckle up, baby.  Keep your hands inside the ride at all times, and do not attempt to stand up until we have come to a complete stop.  This ride is about to take off.

by- Robin Jenkins

A raccoon with his head stuck in a ravioli can
A raccoon with his head stuck in a ravioli can, a PRWC patient