Building for Nature at the Celery Fields
Sarasota Audubon Society has begun work on the new Nature Center at the Celery Fields.
“This is an exciting step and a historical one for our chapter,” said Jeanne Dubi, President of the local Audubon. “We are building an Environmental Education Center that will serve our community and the eco-tourists who come here from around the world.”
Sarasota County made the local Audubon project possible with the lease of an acre of land at the Celery Fields. The County also restored the wetlands by planting more than 100 acres of native plants and building two boardwalks for better wildlife viewing – one on Palmer Blvd. and one on Raymond Road. “Our partnership and shared vision have made the Celery Fields and our Nature Center possible,” said Dubi.
The new Nature Center is designed to achieve LEED Gold designation, a building certification that identifies high performance green buildings with numerous energy and water efficiencies. Eco-friendly features include materials sourced regionally, a building design that maximizes natural light, solar panels, gardens with water efficient landscaping and more. Carlson Studio Architecture, Willis Smith Construction and Stantec Consulting Services comprise the project team. Florida House Institute is advising on the project.
The interior areas will feature a teaching room, displays for nature inspired art and writing, a gathering area for the popular Celery Fields Explorers program, office space and a large, shaded pavilion for outdoor activities. The gardens will feature all native plantings and rainwater harvesting design, butterfly plants, commemorative brick pathways, a memorial garden, benches, a bird blind and a bioswale.
The Celery Fields, the county’s largest and most important storm water treatment area, is an oasis of wildlife and wetlands, providing a protected habitat for numerous species within a corridor of increasing urbanization. With more than 360 acres and several miles of trails, the Celery Fields is home to 218 recorded species of birds, more than 60 percent of all birds recorded in Sarasota County.
More than 90 percent of the construction costs are covered. “We are moving ahead as planned and asking the community for their generous support in helping us take the next step,” said Dubi.
In addition to naming opportunities, Audubon recently started a Commemorative Brick Campaign.