Back to Nature Wildlife Refuge Grand Opening Brings Community Together
The recent grand opening of the Back to Nature Wildlife Refuge and Education Center raised $15,000 to care for and rehabilitate injured and orphaned wildlife, a service Back to Nature has been providing for 25 years.
More than 1,000 citizens joined the festivities that began with Mayor Teresa Jacobs and Commissioner Jennifer Thompson cutting the ribbon to the organization’s new home at Eagles Roost, an Orange County Green PLACE property near Lake Nona. State Representative Tom Goodson also attended the opening ceremony.
“We are so excited to give Back to Nature a permanent home,” Mayor Jacobs said during her remarks at the event. “Orange County recognizes the need to preserve land for future generations and habitat for wildlife. It is vital to invest in nature.”
The event also marks the opening of another Green PLACE property for Orange County citizens. Green PLACE is an Orange County public land acquisition and management program. Through the program, Back to Nature leases 20 acres at Eagles Roost, a 232acre conservation land, for a nominal fee. In return, the organization hosts an education center where citizens can view and learn about wildlife.
“What impresses me most is that I will meet people that come to Back to Nature because they have a love for the animals and for taking care of the community; and they do it over and over again,” Commissioner Thompson said. “The number of volunteer hours people give blows me away. These people care about this cause, care about these animals, and care about this community.”
Highlights of the day included wildlife classes, nature hikes, appearances of a bald eagle from the Audubon Society and other wildlife from area attractions, a tree give away by the Orange County Cooperative Extension, stage shows, balloon animals, and face painting. The event hosted 35 exhibitors that assisted Back to Nature in teaching the importance of protecting our natural resources.
“Back to Nature is a valuable community asset and offers wildlife rehabilitation and education to our citizens,” said Lori Cunniff, Community, Environmental and Development Services Department Deputy Director, “Having Back to Nature at the Eagles Roost Green PLACE property brings additional visitors to the site where they can see and enjoy learning about wildlife, take a hike to the lakeside observation pier and enjoy our conservation lands.”