NAPLES, Fla. – Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve is celebrating its 40th anniversary with the production of a full-length documentary film. The film, titled “Southwest Florida’s Mangrove Coast, is slated to air on many of Florida's PBS stations, including WGCU (Ft. Myers) on April 22 and April 28. As part of this project, Live Oak Production Group has also produced a series of video shorts.
“Rookery Bay is a special habitat, and I’m proud of our staff’s dedication to preservation and education regarding its natural resources,” said Florida Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Noah Valenstein.
“We are really excited about this film,” said Reserve Director Keith Laakkonen. “The documentary not only describes, but also shows the diversity of connections that people have made to this special place for over four decades.”
The documentary film highlights the reserve’s story of how a vision to protect the fragile ecosystem between Marco Island and Naples grew to include partnerships with local families and conservation agencies. Because of their efforts, the reserve offers a myriad of opportunities for exploration and education.
The film, produced by award-winning director Elam Stoltzfus and writer Nic Stoltzfus of Live Oak Production Group, also highlights Rookery Bay’s past and present programs, including appearances by people who were instrumental in creating the reserve, and many partners, who continue to help the reserve meet its mission. The documentary is funded by DEP with support from the Collier County Tourism and Development Council.
Rookery Bay was designated as a National Estuarine Sanctuary by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and Florida Governor Bob Graham in 1978, following a grassroots effort spearheaded in the 1960s by the National Audubon Society, the Nature Conservancy and Collier County Conservancy.
Located at the northern end of the Ten Thousand Islands on the Gulf Coast of Florida, Rookery Bay was protected when the local community became concerned about plans for a road extension and causeway that would connect Naples with the islands adjacent to the bay. What started out as a 3,000-acre sanctuary has grown to 110,000 acres of coastal lands and waters through the state of Florida’s Conservation and Recreational Lands Program, Preservation 2000 and the Florida Forever Act.