Published: Aug 16, 2014 12:04 PM EDT
Updated: Aug 16, 2014 12:06 PM EDT

BONITA SPRINGS, Fla. -- Established in 1936, Everglades Wonder Gardens is one of the last survivors of Florida's Golden Age of roadside attractions. Under the direction of photographer John Brady, the Gardens is celebrating a one-year re-opening anniversary. Through the end of August, you can enjoy half-price admission!

The 3.5-acre lush botanical jungle has been a focal point of Bonita Springs since Bill and Lester Piper created the facility to rehabilitate injured animals. The Gardens remains a place for visitors to enjoy nature and see Florida’s wildlife in an intimate way, something that many parks cannot provide.

In mid-2013 the park closed briefly for the first time and that could have been the last chapter in this great story. Instead award-winning local photographer John Brady took over management of the Gardens and is determined not to let it become another extinct attraction.

The staff and volunteers focused on preserving this landmark while updating it with new flora and fauna. The Gardens have been reborn with elements such as dozens of bromeliads, a butterfly house and five large staghorn ferns in addition to legacy specimens, including old growth kapok, shaving brush and African mahogany trees. Nestled among all of this greenery and flowers are new and updated animal exhibits such as a flamingo pond, alligator pool with 40 gators, duck ponds, and turtle and tortoise exhibits.

The history and heritage of the Gardens remains of great importance, and the legacy is upheld through museum exhibits in the entry building. Brady added an art gallery featuring his stunning color and black-and-white images from the swamps, creeks and coastal areas of Florida's less traveled areas. The main building also includes a gift and souvenir shop.

Due to our new vision, we no longer feature mammals but instead focus on a diverse and interesting collection of birds and reptiles, many of which are rescues from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission. Exhibits are being updated, moved or opened every week. Visit often to keep up with the changes.

A Board of Directors affiliated with the Everglades Wonder Gardens has filed to establish a not-for-profit charity with a goal of acquiring this unique property. We plan to continue to operate the Gardens, preserve and improve this landmark, and share its botanical beauty with the community through education, interaction and entertainment for generations to come.