Fundraising drive on to preserve unspoiled Collier acreage
NAPLES, Fla. (AP) — Bobbie Lee Davenport recently led 10 people down a dirt trail lined with ferns and palm trees at the Naithoriendun Wildlife Sanctuary in rural Collier County.
The land had belonged to the late Bob Gore, a zoologist and conservationist who pieced together the nearly 200 acres surrounding his stilt home in Golden Gate Estates.
As Davenport led the group down the trail, she pointed out cypress trees and trail cameras that often capture photos of wildlife. She stopped the group at a gazebo along the trail where she said Gore would enjoy a glass of wine in the evenings.
Throughout the day people filtered into Naithloriendun from the gravel-topped 40th Avenue Southeast to see the property that belonged to Gore and hear the vision for its future.
“A lot of people are just finding out about this place,” Davenport said. “They need to hear the vision.”
Davenport is president of the Cypress Cove Conservancy, which is raising funds to purchase the 10-acre parcel where Gore’s home stands and turn it into a nature center. The nonprofit has raised more than $60,000 and needs another $143,000 to complete the purchase, Davenport said.
The conservancy has a planned public-private partnership with Conservation Collier, which is planning to purchase 169 acres surrounding the Gore house.
Plans for the property include turning the Gore home into a nature center for education and community events, Davenport said. Walking trails are planned throughout the property.
“We’re going to have the coolest nature center rivaled by none right here,” Davenport said.
The property can also be a service provider for Florida Gulf Coast University and Florida SouthWestern State College, Davenport said.
“There’s a huge educational component to some of the programs we’ll have here,” she said.
As funds are raised, volunteers continue to work on clearing walking trails, which were blocked with downed trees and branches after Hurricane Irma.
“We have a lot of work to do on the trails. We’re going to do major work once we own the place,” Davenport said.
The conservancy is prepared for this season and plans to get more people out to the sanctuary, Davenport said.
“We really need to raise the money this season,” she said. “Once the property is purchased, we can open the nature center.”
In the Gore house, musicians softly played guitar and piano. People walked through the rooms and ate snacks on the open-air porch overlooking the trees.
Glee and Robert Finnegan, of East Naples, visited for the first time on a Sunday morning.
The couple love spending time in natural areas and are “always looking for new things,” Robert Finnegan said.
“I think it’s really beautiful,” Glee Finnegan said of Naithloriendun. “It would be lovely to have a place like this. This lets us come out and enjoy life in the Florida woods.”
Jean and Bill Burton drove from North Naples to see the sanctuary. They were inspired by Gore’s vision to preserve the area, Jean Burton said.
“I think it’s amazing. There is a lot of potential to see the true Florida here,” she said. “We have to be proactive and start preserving it.”
Burton, who recently retired, said she is in search of new activities and places to explore. She said she would like to volunteer and help the property in the future.
“It’s a cause I believe in. You’re giving back to future generations,” she said.
Davenport, who knew Gore, said she was sure he was at the house in spirit on that Sunday. Framed photos of Gore throughout the years were placed on a table in the house.
“He would be jumping for joy because this is what he wanted,” Davenport said. “He wanted this land preserved.”
Information from: Naples (Fla.) Daily News, http://www.naplesnews.com