Water-Related News

‘Ding’ Darling acquires 21.5 acres to preserve more wildlife habitat

Wildlife on Sanibel now have a few more acres to romp around on safely thanks to the “Ding” Darling Wildlife Society-Friends of the Refuge.

The Society recently closed on a 21.5-acre parcel of land adjacent to Bay Drive thanks to a donation from the family Pine Rock Foundation of Minneapolis, Minnesota. The land will become part of the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge.

The parcel was originally part of a 75-acre historic property along bay shores owned by the Symroski pioneer family. Through the generations, the family sold off parcels of the homesteaded property, much of which became neighborhood communities.

Ann-Marie Wildman, DDWS executive director, described how the property will be handled:

"The majority of the property (around 21 acres) will be donated to U.S. Fish and Wildlife ( for the J.N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge) however the federal government cannot accept buildings so the one small house that is on the property will remain as part of the "Ding" Darling Wildlife Society Land LLC (the non profit friends group for the Refuge) and will be used for either intern housing or affordable housing for a young professional with "Ding" Darling."

Wildman said the small amount that is kept by the friends group would be approximately a half acre and no other homes will ever be built on this property.

“Continuing the 42-year legacy of the ‘Ding’ Darling Wildlife Society in conservation, protection, and education is what this is all about, and we are so thrilled to help preserve this important stretch of island green space, which is vital habitat, in perpetuity.,” said DDWS Board of Directors president Bill Harkey. He added that it will also enhance efforts for storm resilience and benefit island residents for generations.

"That property will be preserved forever," Wildman said. "We wanted to maintain it for wildlife, or a nice corridor. That property is bookended by other preservation properties, and therefore will create a habitat for wildlife."

The conservation plots that bookend the Bay Drive property will complete a critical wildlife corridor through mostly undeveloped land planted with mangroves and other native vegetation and frequented by gopher tortoises, bobcats, screech owls, and myriad other varieties of birds and reptiles.