BONITA SPRINGS, Fla. - After nearly eight decades in Southwest Florida, a beloved tourist attraction is shutting its doors. Since 1930's, the Everglades Wonder Gardens in Bonita Springs has wowed visitors and locals with unique wildlife exhibits.
Wink News spoke to the owners who say all good things must come to an end.
"I was gonna close [Sunday] but my wife said, 'You can't, you have to give people a chance to see it one last time.' So that's what we are doing," said David Piper.
Four generations of the Piper family have brought people into a garden full of wonders.
"My grandfather and my great uncle started it in 1936, then my father had it, and then my brother and I. Almost every Piper worked here at one time or another," he said.
The park was opened by Lester Piper and was then called the Everglades Reptile Gardens.
"It's been a really rough decision but I have some health issues, the bottom line doesn't matter anymore when you have health issues," Piper said.
David Piper took over the 3 1/2 acres 21 years ago and says closing the zoo is heartbreaking.
"It is hard because we have three and four generations of families who come here year after year," said wife Dawn Piper.
So what will happen to the animals, the park and the people?
"We are selling everything, because I don't want the memories, it hurts too bad. The big alligators and things will find their place at other attractions and zoos and other animals we'll donate to parks. We have great relationship with our employees, we love them just like family. It would be a shame to see it all go away but there are real estate experts who say this is the most valuable piece of property in all of Southwest Florida," he said.
The owners say they are still unsure who will buy the attraction and that will determine the ultimate fate of the animals and exhibits.