Evelyn Rose and Jonathan Silverman of Sanibel Island recently pledged a donation of $15,000 to be paid over three years to the "Ding" Darling Preservation Campaign, bringing the total pledged to the $1.2 million mark, shy of the $1.8 million goal by $600,000.
Funds from the campaign will purchase the environmentally sensitive land of Woodring Point at the entrance to Tarpon Bay and improve the 12-year-old "Ding" Darling Education Center. Site of the historic Woodring homestead, Woodring Point is also home to myriad species of birds, marine creatures, and vegetation.
Much like the Woodrings, Silverman's family homesteaded on the East Coast of Florida in the 1800s.
The acquisition of Woodring Point will fit a piece of the puzzle into a wildlife corridor combining existing Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge and other protected land and waters.
"I have seen so much development cover sensitive, historical land all over the state that my family and I feel strongly about doing our part to save land," Silverman said. "Having walked the Woodring property, we are more convinced than ever that this land needs to be protected for the benefit of its historical value and for the overall wildlife on land and in the water."
"We are deeply appreciative of this generous support for our mission to preserve Woodring Point property," said campaign committee chair Jim Sprankle.
Other committee members include Mary Lou Bailey, Chauncey Goss, Porter Goss, Doris Hardy, Jon Heinrich, Kip Koss, Chip Lesch, John McCabe, Mike Mullins, and Bill Vanderbilt.
The "Ding" Darling Wildlife Society-Friends of the Refuge (DDWS) leads the preservation campaign to acquire the 6.56 acres on Woodring Point for the J.N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge and to update and enhance the refuge's education center exhibits and facilities, including the addition of an elevator.
The property preservation is a cooperative effort. DDWS and Lee County's Conservation 20/20 program each will purchase part of the land; the refuge will assume responsibility to restore and manage both parcels. DDWS must raise private funds to purchase its parcel by September of this year.
If not preserved by the refuge, the land could be developed with as many as five dwellings, each permitted a boat dock extending into Tarpon Bay. Construction of new homes and the increase in boat traffic would have significant impact on the sensitive habitat.
"With a successful campaign, this land acquisition will protect rare bay beach habitat that more than 80 different land and marine species call home or visit for food and shelter," said DDWS president John McCabe.
For more information, contact DDWS executive director Birgie Vertesch at 239-292-0566, or visit www.dingdarlingsociety.org/campaign-update.