Gov. Crist to visit Rookery Bay on Friday

Gov. Charlie Crist

Gov. Charlie Crist

Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve

300 Tower Road, Naples, FL

Gov. Charlie Crist will visit Collier County this Friday to dedicate a new pedestrian bridge at Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve.

The dedication, which is open to the public, is planned for 1 p.m. at the Rookery Bay headquarters off Collier Boulevard, about a mile south of U.S. 41 East.

“We’re excited,” Rookery Bay manager Gary Lytton said Wednesday. “We think it’s going to be a great thing.”

Rookery Bay is no stranger to big names from the world of politics.

Then-President George W. Bush and his brother, then- Gov. Jeb Bush, visited Rookery Bay in April 2004.

President Bush even took a crack at clearing brush from a part of the reserve; the gloves he used hang in the reserve’s Environmental Learning Center.

On Friday, Crist and state Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Mike Sole will deliver remarks at a 30-minute ribbon-cutting ceremony.

After the ceremony, the reserve is offering free admission to Rookery Bay’s aquarium displays, nature store, art gallery, museum, butterfly garden and nature trails.

The pedestrian bridge over Henderson Creek links the Environmental Learning Center with an upland marsh and trail system south of the creek.

“It’s been a long-term vision that’s become a reality,” Lytton said.

The project began in 2006 with a $783,000 grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration matched by $440,000 from the Florida DEP for a total of $1.2 million. Work finished in November.

The bridge, which runs from the second floor of the learning center, is 440-feet long and can withstand 140 mph hurricane winds.

A custom-designed 75-foot-long free-span, held up by fiberglass trusses, bridges the navigable portion of the creek.

Rookery Bay reserve, one of 27 research reserves in the United States, encompasses 110,000 acres between Marco Island and Naples.

The Environmental Learning Center attracts 12,000 guests annually.

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