(By Deb Voorhees) At Lovers Key State Park this summer, whether you’re on a hiking trail or heading down to the beach, the sights and sounds of construction are hard to miss. If your destination is the kayak launch, just before you reach the banks of the inland canals, you’ll see the Welcome & Discovery Center building rising above the tree tops.
“The structure is very interesting from the ground up,” Construction Superintendent Scott Reynolds from Owens, Ames & Kimball, will tell you. From the pilings that are cast to resemble mangrove roots, to the large, elevated observation decks, this building is unique. The park was closed in the spring with the Covid crisis, but work was allowed to continue with workers following proper guidelines to stay safe. The closure actually helped keep the schedule on track, especially on the day the floors were poured when the first of 34 concrete trucks lined up at 4am to begin the day.”
Currently, concrete floors and stairs are set and the giant arching handicapped ramp in front of the building is set to be poured. This ramp will one day arch around a sculpture of a mother manatee and baby, with reading rails lining the ramp to teach visitors about this unique and endearing creature. The reading rails and many of the interior signs in the exhibit hall were funded by a grant from the Lee County Tourism Development Council. Workers have also erected the walls of the building and cranes are hoisting joists into place for the massive roof that will cover both the exhibit hall and community room, as well as the 1500 square feet of open air space between the buildings and observation/gathering decks.
Park Manager Katie Moses will tell you that this is “the first project of its kind in a state park in over 20 years and she is excited to cut the ribbon on opening day.” Historically, LKSP has been the second most visited park in the state system with around 1 million visitors a year, and upon completion of this building. Katie hopes that this building “can increase attendance in the park when it is safe to do so and help our tourism economy as it recovers from the pandemic and closures.”
Friends of Lovers Key (FOLKS) has the same goal in mind. FOLKS is partnering with the park service to design and furnish the interior of the building with an interactive environmental exhibit on coastal wildlife and ecosystems, a state of the art audio and video conferencing system and community meeting space. FOLKS is working with many educational and environmental organizations in the region to create a place of learning, advocacy and collaboration for visitors and residents alike.
To keep track on the progress of the building or if you would like information on the benefits of becoming a FOLKS member, or would like to become and education partner, guest lecturer or donor, you can visit us on our facebook page or friendsofloverskey.org or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I would be happy to take a partners on a building tour and discuss ways to creating lasting partnerships in the community.
Deb Voorhees is The Executive Director for the Friends of Lovers Key and can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com