Everglades Wonder Gardens' last day is April 21, owner says

While signs such as the ones which advertise for Everglades Wonder Gardens along Old 41 in Bonita Springs are grandfathered in, new sign restrictions means those types of signs as well as others may be a thing of the past .  Michel Fortier/Staff

Photo by MICHEL FORTIER // Buy this photo

While signs such as the ones which advertise for Everglades Wonder Gardens along Old 41 in Bonita Springs are grandfathered in, new sign restrictions means those types of signs as well as others may be a thing of the past . Michel Fortier/Staff

A nearly 80-year-old Bonita Springs landmark will close Sunday.

David Piper, who owns Everglades Wonder Gardens with his wife, Dawn Marie Piper, confirmed Sunday that a family illness is forcing them to sell the property along Old 41 Road.

“No matter what happens, we’re done for sure next Sunday,” Piper said, adding that he and his wife moved to Georgia six months ago, but he’s in town this week to oversee the last week his longtime family

attraction will be open.

“It’s a real rough decision,” Piper said.

Piper said they are negotiating with possible buyers and are hoping another owner would stick to the authentic old Florida feel of the attraction.

“There is a Florida family that is taking a look at it and a few others who want to keep it the same, and that would be incredible,” David Piper told NBC-2.

Piper, who said he will take a few days to decide on those

offers, also is considering merely closing the attraction and selling the animals to other zoos as an option.

The 11 employees of the gardens are searching for new jobs.

David Piper put the land up for sale in 2010, fielding offers for the site of the family’s zoological attraction.

But in October 2011, Piper was reminding the public the attraction was open for business.

“Just because we were putting it up for sale, people thought we were going to close,” Piper told the Daily News that month. “That was just plain wrong.”

Health issues led Piper to start looking for buyers. Diagnosed with an inoperable tumor at the bottom of his spinal column, Piper nearly two years ago was uncertain about his prognosis and whether he could maintain the rigorous business schedule.

However, his health has remained steady, and the tumor neither grew nor shrank.

Piper had said in the past he wouldn’t accept a deal on the cheap if he sold the gardens, which his family has owned and operated since 1936.

CLICK HERE for the NBC-2 story and a video

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