Bonita residents comment on purchase of Everglades Wonder Gardens; item pulled from agenda

Should the city of Bonita Springs purchase the Everglades Wonder Gardens?

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— The Bonita Springs City Council meeting hadn’t yet begun, but the conversation did.

“Bonita Springs cannot afford to maintain the botanical gardens. Ask the city of Naples about it,” Gladys Verplanke said to Todd Michaels before meeting about a proposal for the city to take over the privately-owned Everglades Wonder Gardens.

However, with Mayor Ben Nelson out sick, the item was removed from the agenda, so the board did not discuss it.

That didn’t stop the public.

“This is the last vestige of Americana from the time between World War I and World War II,” Alex Grantt said loudly into a microphone during a public comment period. “It’s a unique piece of property for the city to use as a magnet for revitalization for Old 41.”

City Hall was overflowing with interest about the issue. Some say the city would not profit from purchase of Wonder Gardens and would be better off investing in the Bonita Springs Golf and Country Club.

The golf course purchase issue wasn’t on the agenda.

“Work with us, it’s a win-win for both of us,” Marge Barry, resident of Fairway Pines said at the city council meeting about the purchase of the Bonita Springs Golf and Country Club.

To others, the historical value of the Wonder Gardens supersedes the need for another park in the city.

Verplanke said there are other areas that are more in need.

“If you want to spend money in the city, clean up downtown,” Verplanke said. “It still looks like a dilapidated Mexican village.”

Verplanke’s comment sent the room into silence until the next resident came up to speak.

“Where there is a will, there is a way,” frequent attendee Kathy McGrath said about purchasing the Wonder Gardens. “There is a will and I know we will find a way. We gotta go for it.”

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