Since their reveal last month, the new Learning Lavatories at the J.N. “Ding” Darling Wildlilfe Refuge are impressing their “captive” audiences.
Ding Darling is the first of the 550-plus refuges in the National Refuge System to now feature educational imagery inside the center’s lavatories and on the outdoor wall leading to them.
Outdoor murals immerse visitors in a virtual underwater experience, where they come eye-to-eye with 3-D manatees and look up to see an alligator and other wildlife sculptures swimming overhead. Inside, the lavatories continue the interpretive underwater motif, with a tile mangroves mural and more wildlife sculptures.
And as of last week, nature-art images by well-known photographers — Terry Baldwin, Dick Fortune and Sara Lopez, Sylvia Guarino, Allen Hoffacker, Kent Jager, Lillian Stokes, and Michael Threlkeld — now wrap around bathroom stall doors at the J.N. “Ding” Darling Wildlife Refuge.
The door wraps portray an anhinga, white pelican, roseate spoonbill, yellow-crowned night heron, green heron, reddish egret, and great blue heron. Inside the doors, guests can learn an assortment of facts about each species.
“The refuge had identified a major missed opportunity for educating visitors,” said Birgie Miller, executive director of the “Ding” Darling Wildlife Society-Friends of the Refuge (DDWS), which facilitated the project. “Whereas we see nearly a million visitors to the refuge each year, only about a quarter of those numbers enter the center. We were finding that many came to use the restrooms without ever stepping foot inside to see all of our wonderful hands-on exhibits.”
“We are proud to say we now have the coolest bathrooms in the state of Florida and in the entire national wildlife refuge system,” said Miller.