“Ding” Darling Wildlife Society-Friends of the Refuge (DDWS) has announced that it has meet its $1.8 million goal for its Refuge Preservation Campaign goal, which it began in January 2013. The campaign raised funds to purchase acreage at Woodring Point at the entrance to the refuge’s Tarpon Bay sea-life nursery and to add an elevator and other upgrades to the “Ding” Darling Education Center at J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel Island.

“The support has been just incredible,” said Jim Sprankle, who chaired the campaign committee. “Thanks goes to the hardworking committee and everyone who pledged a contribution to the crucial project.”

“Thanks to Jim and his committee for making this happen,” said DDWS president John McCabe. “His mangrove cuckoo alone brought in $60,000 toward our goal. The entire community and ‘Ding’ family really went to bat for us on this one.”

The final push for the campaign came when an anonymous donor, as a result of touring the Woodring property during the Zonta Club’s Peek at the Unique homes tour in March, pledged a challenge contribution of $200,000, said Sprankle. Immediately, island communities and people from around the country responded with donations of all sizes.

“We are particularly appreciative of the support from community organizations such as Zonta, COTI, SCCF, and the local Audubon chapter,” said Sprankle. “I can’t even begin to thank all the individual contributors — from the young girl who gave us $5 at the Sanibel Farmer’s Market to the amazing $200,000 challenge donation.”

The Woodring property’s preservation is a cooperative effort between DDWS and Lee County’s Conservation 20/20 program. Each is purchasing part of the land, and the refuge will restore and manage both parcels.

The Woodring family, who homesteaded the property in the late 1800s, currently owns the property, which is adjacent to the refuge and privately owned conservation lands.

The purchase of the Woodring property will add to the refuge a key parcel for re-creating an intact habitat and wildlife corridor on the point. It prevents further development and ensures the protection of a vital habitat and feeding grounds for a variety of at-risk species and other fauna and precludes further residential development there.

Members of the Refuge Preservation Committee Campaign included Chairman Sprankle, Mary Lou Bailey, Chauncey Goss, Porter Goss, Doris Hardy, Jon Heinrich, Chip Lesch, McCabe, Mike Mullins, and Bill Vanderbilt.

Image courtesy "Ding” Darling Wildlife Society

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