Restrooms at Sanibel Island’s J. N. “Ding” Darling Wildlife Refuge Win National Award


The bathrooms at the J.N. “Ding’ Darling National Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel Island, Florida were voted “America’s Best Restroom” in October 2018 after a nationwide contest held by the Cintas Corporation. The #LearningLav Project competed against nine other finalists in the vote for best bathroom in the country.

The #LearningLav Project was conceived by refuge staff as another way to educate visitors to the refuge. Of the refuge’s approximately one million visitors each year, staff estimated that many visitors used the restrooms but did not visit the adjoining education center. Their idea was to take the education center to the restrooms.

The LearningLavs are the first of their kind in the nation’s 566-refuge system. They were judged on cleanliness, functionality, visual appeal, innovation and unique design elements.

The hallway to the bathrooms features mother and baby manatee sculptures made out of recycled tires. Hallway walls are painted to show various outdoor images, along with question and answer boxes designed to impart knowledge about refuge wildlife. The ceiling sports three-dimensional sculptures of more wildlife. Inside the bathrooms the walls are painted with views of the refuge, while stall doors are devoted to pictures of various birds found in the refuge, along with explanations of their mating and feeding habits.

The new bathrooms have been a hit with visitors. They have simultaneously educated visitors and reinforced the importance of the refuge to Sanibel’s sanctuary island quality to all.

Sanibel Island is a special place for special people.

The city of Sanibel’s founding fathers were determined to keep Sanibel Island the pristine, sanctuary island they found when they came to the island in the years before incorporation in 1974. Prior to 1963 when the Sanibel Causeway was built to connect the island with Fort Myers, they came by ferry, and once on the island they were entranced by the white, sandy, shelling beaches and the relaxed island atmosphere.

When developers from Fort Myers and elsewhere began eyeing the island as their next development project, with a goal of building 90,000 units on the island, local residents rose up and incorporated the city. Once incorporation was complete the new city council passed strict building and development codes that limited the number of units on the island to 9,000.

Sanibel was saved from overdevelopment and through the years, as it added 28 miles of shared-use paths and beach parks for access to its shelling beaches, the island has maintained its sanctuary quality and is a destination for visitors from around the world.

The new #LearningLavs at the J.N.“Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge reinforce this.

About The Author:

Mike Badenoch’s parents moved to Sanibel Island in 1967 and were active in the incorporation effort. Mike is an exclusive buyer agent, a designated Sanibel & Captiva Islands Specialist and broker associate with Buyer’s Choice Realty Group, Inc., Sanibel, Florida. Buyer’s Choice Realty Group, Inc. is an exclusive buyer agency representing only real estate buyers on Sanibel and Captiva Islands, Fort Myers and Cape Coral, Florida. Feel free to call Mike at 239-292-1233 with any questions you may have or browse the MLS on his web site at

Reset Password