New Programs Help Children Learn to Protect, Restore and Live Safely in Nature


Several decades ago, Dr. Robert Gore began purchasing parcels of property in Golden Gate Estates to remove it from further development and to protect and restore the land. When he passed away, Cypress Cove Landkeepers, Inc. formed to raise funds to purchase ten acres of land, including the Gore home. Conservation Collier purchased the remaining 170 acres.

Gore Nature Center’s purpose is to pursue Dr. Gore’s dream to restore the area to its original flora and fauna or, as he would describe it, “to its previously pristine condition.”

Nature-loving and hardworking board members, volunteers from local businesses, and FGCU students assist with the challenging work underway to remove invasive species and replant original, native plants to naturally attract native wildlife, including animals, reptiles, birds, and butterflies.

The Gore home, a cracker-style home built on stilts, is the education center. The current bathroom is not easily accessible for anyone with trouble navigating stairs. A drain field was recently built as the first step in constructing an accessible restroom facility. “The grant from Collier Community Foundation has been very helpful in preparing the drain field,” said Reid. “Additional fundraising is underway to complete the project.”

The $25,000 Collier Community Foundation grant also supports student education programs. Since February, 7th-grade science students from Golden Gate Estates have been transported to Gore Nature Center to participate in lectures, trail exploration, craft and art projects, and educational games. By the end of April, more than 300 students will have participated. Educators from Gore Nature Center and Collier County Public Schools jointly developed the curriculum to study the symbiotic relationships between plants, animals, birds, and other wildlife. The center hosts home school classes twice a month, setting up dedicated classes about nature, Florida history, and science.

“We are truly filling a need. Whole families are coming out to see what their children are excited about. It is gratifying to see students, parents, and grandparents bond with each other through shared nature experiences,” said Jennifer Reid, Gore Nature Center Vice President of Communications and Programs.

Because many residents are unfamiliar with Southwest Florida’s native animals and plants, Gore Nature Center organizes Second Sunday Open Houses. These free events allow families to walk the trails, relax in nature, and learn about living safely in nature. Educators cover topics that may keep some people away from nature, such as poison ivy, fire ants, panthers, bears, and alligators. “Be knowledgeable. Don’t be afraid of nature,” said Reid.

Dr. Gore had a sense of whimsy and was a fan of author JR Tolkien. In his honor, The Fairy Fest in February used places and characters from the Tolkien books to create a fun event for families, complete with trolls and fairy godmothers. Face painters helped children and adults dress in their roles before exploring nature on the walking trails. The event drew more than 100 attendees.

“None of this would have been possible without the Collier Community Foundation grant, said Reid. “Expanded science classes for students, eliminating invasive species of plants, the restoration work, and other property improvements simply could not have happened without this grant. We are so grateful.”