BTN temporarily closes to visitors due to new construction project

We have exciting news. Construction for our new facility will begin on February 13th! Five of our portables will be removed to make room for new buildings. The project, which has been in the works for a couple of years, will provide improved spaces to care for injured and orphaned wildlife, as well as educational and recreational opportunities for visitors.

The Orange County Board of County Commissioners voted unanimously on July 12, 2022 (watch video) to approve the budget package that included the investment funds to construct new buildings for Back to Nature (BTN). “We’re thrilled to see this project come to fruition,” said Debbie Helsel, Executive Director of BTN. “The new facility will not only help us improve our services, protecting some of our most vulnerable wildlife, but also provide an opportunity for the community to connect with nature and learn about conservation right in the heart of the city.”

The completion of this project will be a valuable asset for both wildlife and the people of Central Florida. BTN is an oasis for residents and tourists who enjoy the outdoors and want to learn about Florida’s native and non-native species.

The project is expected to take around eight months to complete. Starting January 30th, BTN will be temporarily closed to visitors until further notice. We will STILL accept injured and orphaned wildlife intakes during this time, but they will need to be called in advance. The Wildlife Walk will be unaffected and the animals will still receive the same excellent care. As we gain details regarding our operations while undergoing construction, we will share them. Come visit the residents of BTN along our Wildlife Walk NOW while we’re still open through January 30th!

March 2023 Update

This past month, we’ve had some exciting new developments at BTN! The demolition of our old portables started (watch video) to make space for new buildings that will enhance the refuge’s ability to care for animals and provide a better experience for our visitors.

This is an exciting time for BTN. We are grateful for the support of our community as we embark on this project and look forward to welcoming visitors to our new and improved facilities in the future!


Demolition of portables at Back to Nature Wildlife Refuge

April 2023 Update

Construction of the new buildings is progressing well and beginning to take form. While the plumbing and electrical lines are still in the works, the footers have been successfully installed, and the foundation work is next. We can now see the building’s layout and the structures are gradually coming to life! Even though supply chain issues have delayed certain aspects of this project, which may extend the original timeline, we are excited to be on this journey!

May 2023 Update

The construction of the new buildings has been progressing well over the past couple of weeks. While it has been challenging to operate with this project happening simultaneously, the dedicated efforts of everyone at BTN will undoubtedly pay off in the end.

Concrete has been poured into the foundations of the new buildings. The Education and Administration Building walls are now in place and are expected to be ready for roofing soon! The wall construction for the remaining buildings is underway.

June 2023 Update

This month, we reached some major milestones in the construction. A large water storage tank dedicated to fire suppression and sprinkler system for the buildings was successfully installed. As the buildings continue to take shape, each passing day brings even greater anticipation for what lies ahead.

July 2023 Update

This month, the roofs from all buildings are being installed and weathered in, as well as the ventilation system and electrical connections.

August 2023 Update

This month, exciting developments took place with the construction project at BTN.

The porches were successfully installed and a diagram of a County Arts project was placed on the outer wall of the future Visitor Center building. The selected artist discussed installation and timeline details with county representatives and the construction company.

Currently, the siding is being applied to the exterior walls of the buildings. Windows, doors, ventilation, electrical, and other components are also being installed and roofing will be completed once more materials arrive.

The completion of the buildings will offer us increased security and peace of mind during the upcoming hurricane season.

October 2023 Update

This month, exciting developments are on the horizon for our construction project.

In the coming week, we anticipate installation of the metal roof and already successfully installed the doors and windows.

Inside the building, workers continue to focus on electrical and ventilation systems. However, we’ve encountered some delays due to challenges in the supply chain. This has affected the pace of our project, which hasn’t been as rapid as we had initially hoped.

For budget considerations, regrettably, we won’t be able to include the walk-in cooler and freezer in our project as initially planned. The estimated cost of at least $100,000 will require fundraising efforts. However, we remain hopeful that we can secure the necessary funding to incorporate these features.

On a positive note, water lines have been successfully installed to connect to the large tank for the fire suppression system.

While there have been some delays in aspects of our project, overall progress remains encouraging and aligns with our expectations.