As 2018 dawns, Peace River Wildlife Center is at a crossroads in its existence. Started in 1978 on the lanai of local veterinarian, Dr. Jerry Gingerich, PRWC quickly outgrew those humble beginnings. By 1987 the wildlife rehabilitation facility began its journey to the edge of Ponce de Leon Park, thanks to a generous lease by the City of Punta Gorda.
With a steady annual increase in patient load, PRWC is poised for expansion again. 2017 was another record-breaking year for injured animal intake. We are bursting at the seams and desperately need to increase cage and habitat numbers and sizes. The City of Punta Gorda has once again offered to help us to help the community. If all goes according to plan, we will be breaking ground on our new facility in April of this year.
The new location is mere steps away from our current one, but will consist of an acre—a little more than twice the space we have now. Most of that extra space will be taken up by additional rehab and hospital caging. But with the combination of our many outbuildings into one, we hope to have more display habitats also.
The first thing people will notice when they enter Ponce de Leon Park will be our new building. Designed by ADG architecture, it will incorporate our office, hospital, surgery, laundry room, and gift shop—all of which are now spread out over four separate tiny buildings. The current set-up is a waste of space and energy, having been cobbled together as PRWC grew over the years. It has served us well for over three decades, but is being held together with duct tape and wishes at this point.
The pièce de résistance will be the new educational habitats. Thanks to the pro bono work by engineer Jim Herston, the entire park will be redesigned. PRWC’s space will encompass new habitats for all of our residents and educational birds, where they will live in natural settings indicative of their homes in the wild.
Behind the scenes will be the biggest change for our amazing staff—employees and volunteers alike. We will have more caging in which the injured and orphaned animals will recover and grow up. As always, these patients cannot legally be on display to the public, in an effort to minimize their contact with people and keep them as wild as possible for their imminent release. But we do plan to have video monitors in place, so people can watch what happens during some of the rehab process in the comfort of our new education center.
The gift shop, one of our biggest sources of income, will be enlarged so that we can offer more merchandise and have room for more than three shoppers at a time. If you have ever tried to purchase one of our Luna mugs or Bella t-shirts, you know that the current gift shop can get a little crowded. In addition to a larger brick and mortar gift shop, we are in the process of getting some of our more popular branded products on-line with an e-commerce gift shop. That way people can shop even after they have returned home, whether that home is in PGI, Port Charlotte, or Prague.
The Chinese calendar has declared 2018 the Year of the Dog. I predict that 2018 will be the year of PRWC. I see big things happening for us during the coming months, and want to thank everyone who has helped, is helping, and will help make it happen. Not too long ago the future looked pretty dim for PRWC, but the community rallied around us to make us survivors. The community has spoken…it is time for us to go… on to bigger and better things.
by- Robin Jenkins, DVM