Florida Keys News - Islamorada/KL Free Press
Wednesday, April 16, 2014
Bird hospital planning to fly south

TAVERNIER -- Monroe County Commissioners are expected Wednesday to dole out $265,000 in county tourism dollars to the Florida Keys Wild Bird Center to help with the relocation of its hospital.

County Mayor Sylvia Murphy, who said she sees no reason the money shouldn't be approved, hasn't heard any opposition.

The money is expected to cover half the cost of a mile marker 92 bayside property the center plans to purchase.

Joan Scholz, executive director of the bird center, says fundraising is still underway to reach its half, but if need be, the center could meet its burden by dipping into reserves. That money is tentatively earmarked for future projects.

The bird center's hospital operations is currently based out of a mile marker 94 oceanside building with canal access. The owner sold the property in December, and the bird center, which must vacate the property, has been allowed monthly extensions on its lease as it prepares to move.

Prior to the transaction, the center had no plan to move its hospital operations, so Scholz says her nonprofit has been put in a difficult position.

"We really had no choice," she said.

Scholz calls the fundraising effort, Project Wildbirds, which she has undertaken to request grant money and solicit donations.

"This will expand our horizons," she said. "It will be a big deal for volunteerism."

In addition to being a hospital, Scholz says the new location will feature an education center to showcase the positive impact of the bird sanctuary, she explains.

Once the county agrees to award the tourism funds, the center will need to get architectural and building plans approved to make the interior of the building to their liking. If necessary, the bird center could temporarily move its hospital operations to its bayside sanctuary, Scholz added. The sanctuary, where injured birds that cannot be released are kept, will remain at its long-time location.

Murphy, a Tavernier resident, is happy with the efforts to give the center a higher profile and to make it more open to visitors for educational purposes.

"It is a financially well-run facility and tourists love supporting birds," she said.

jgore@keysnews.com

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