Wednesday, June 29, 2011
World Awareness Wednesday: Disney’s Natural Theme Park
Did you know Disney had a natural theme park?
I’m not talking about Animal Kingdom, although many could argue its fantastic conservation efforts. I’m talking about something even more wild- Disney’s Wilderness Preserve, located only 20 miles from Walt Disney World in Orange County, Fl.
In 1993, Disney purchased 8,500 acres of untouched Florida land and turned it into a preserve in partnership with the Nature Conservancy. This was one of the first occurrences that protected a large piece of land in exchange for nearby building (i.e. the Disney World Resort). This type of action is called a “model of sustainability.”
Now at over 12,000 acres, this area protects more than 300 species of wildlife, including 16 that are endangered. It also provides a 2.5 mile hike for those looking to avoid urban and tourist traffic and would also enjoy experiencing Central Florida in its natural state.
To me, this area is reminiscent of the once operating Discovery Island, where native animals were protected and visitors could observe them while strolling the winding paths. This island operated from 1974-1999, and can still be seen from the Contemporary Resort. After closing, many of the animals were transported to Disney’s Animal Kingdom, which opened in 1998. A Discovery Island claim to fame is that it was home to the last known Dusky Sea Side Sparrow until it died in 1987 and then declared extinct. At present time, the island is still home to many birds who, by choice, live around Bay Lake. However, it is closed to all public. The best views of the island are obtained by boat, preferably the one that shuttles guests from the Magic Kingdom to Fort Wilderness Campground.
Both areas are evidence of Disney’s commitment to conservation.
If you would like to visit Disney’s Wilderness Preserve, the cost is free.
Disney Wilderness Preserve, Kissimmee
2700 Scrub Jay Trl, Kissimmee, FL 34759-3501
Contact: +1 407 935 0002
Open Hours: 9a-5p M-Su Oct-May, 9a-5p M-F Jun-Sep