Florida Park Service Celebrates Groundbreaking for Welcome and Discovery Center at Lovers Key State Park

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CONTACT: DEP Press Office, 850.245.2112, DEPNews@dep.state.fl.us

Florida Park Service Celebrates Groundbreaking for Welcome and Discovery Center at Lovers Key State Park

~Welcome and Discovery Center will feature exhibit hall, wildlife viewing areas and more~

Lovers Key

FORT MYERS, Fla. Today, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s Florida Park Service joined former Florida Rep. Matt Caldwell, the Friends of Lovers Key State Park (FOLKS) and other local representatives for a groundbreaking ceremony announcing the construction of the new Welcome and Discovery Center at Lovers Key State Park.

The park's citizen support organization, the Friends of Lovers Key, was instrumental in helping to secure funding for the center, which is expected to be completed in 2020. DEP received $4 million in state funding to construct the facility, and FOLKS will provide an additional $1.5 million for interior enhancements. The nearly 4,000-square-foot elevated Welcome and Discovery Center will feature a community room with seating for 75 visitors, exhibit discovery hall, bookstore, office space, wildlife viewing areas, covered teaching porch, storage rooms, access ramp and catering kitchen.

“The Welcome and Discovery Center shows what can happen when motivated people decide to do something important for Florida’s residents and visitors,” said Florida State Parks Director Eric Draper. “The center will connect people to the area’s unique natural and cultural resources in new ways. We hope the community will join in supporting the center and Lovers Key State Park with time and money.”

“As the second most popular park in the best state park system in the world, the addition of a thoroughly modern visitors center will be a welcomed addition," said former Florida Rep. Matt Caldwell. "Lovers Key plays host to millions of visitors each year, which present millions of opportunities to educate others about the unique natural blessing we enjoy in Southwest Florida.”

“It was some nine years ago that FOLKS took up the challenge of assisting the Park and in leading the way in the creation of a visitor center building for Lovers Key," said FOLKS President Richard Donnelly. "Little did we realize then the fundraising difficulties and setbacks that were to arise in achieving that goal, but that being said, one can understand the genuine satisfaction and pride that the FOLKS Board now feels as we see the ground about to be turned over, signifying the realization of a remarkable dream - the new Welcome and Discovery Center for Lovers Key State Park.”   

"The Welcome and Discovery Center will be an engaging facility, providing opportunities for visitors to discover more about the unique habitats and wildlife found within the park, identify what they saw during their time at the park and find inspiration for conserving our public lands for generations to come," said Lovers Key State Park Manager Katie Moses. "The centralized location of the center will provide a wonderful community gathering place for visitors to begin their journeys to exploring and discovering all the different recreational opportunities in the park." 

Lovers Key State Park encompasses 1,442 acres between Fort Myers and
Naples, and comprises of four barrier islands — Lovers Key, Inner Key, Black Island and Long Key. The park offers 2.5 miles of white sandy beaches on the Gulf of Mexico and a variety of recreational opportunities, including wildlife viewing, fishing,
kayaking and swimming.