NAVARRE — The new Emerald Coast Wildlife Refuge will open June 15 — at least that is the plan according to Bill Andersen, director emeritus of the ECWR.
ECWR is currently raising money to complete the new facility at 3051 Cloptons Circle.
"We cannot move any animals to the new location until the medical building is completed and staffed," said Andersen.
The majority of the medical center cost was paid with $194,000 given to the ECWR by the Santa Rosa County Commission.
The refuge is raising $160,808 to pay for the education and welcome center at the new facility, according to Andersen. An additional $117,000 is also needed to complete all the animal habitats.
"Our plan is to have everything in place; medical facility, habitats and staff by the 15th," said Carol Andersen, executive director of the refuge. "We will close the ECWR for one day and move all the animals from Okaloosa Island to Navarre."
The next day the ECWR opens in Navarre.
The new refuge has two main buildings on the site, as well as wildlife habitats throughout the compound. One building will house the welcome and education center, while the other building will be the animal medical center
As the ECWR waits on funding, staff and volunteers are busy renewing animal permits with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the USDA that are necessary for the move, Andersen said.
"We are getting there," Bill Andersen said about completing the project. "No donation is too small. It all adds up."
Bill Andersen said there would be a "donor day" before the opening to thank major donors and local dignitaries who have helped the organization.
There have been a few recent four-figure donations, Bill Andersen said. Roxanne Lee, owner of the Samurai Japanese Steak House and Sushi, and T. J. Goulet of the Greater Navarre Area Chamber of Commerce held a joint dinner fundraiser and donated $1,400 to the ECWR. Angela Passehl, of Pratt Aycock Title Company, held a Wildlife Wine & Worthy fundraiser and gave a check for $1,746 to the refuge.
"The community has been marvelous, and we appreciate the support they have given us," Bill Andersen said.
For more information on the refuge or to make a donation, visit emeraldcoastwildliferefuge.org.