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‘Florida Panthers’ up and running again


When Hurricane Ian inundated the River District under several feet of surge, it shorted out the pump that operates The Florida Panthers, the fountain-based installation in the median on Monroe Street between the post office and Harborside Event Center. The installation features three Florida panthers, a male on the prowl, a reclining female and a cub sitting on a ledge next to a gargantuan bullfrog. The sculptures and related water features were created by North Fort Myers sculptor Don “D.J.” Wilkins at the request of the City of Fort Myers Beautification Advisory Board in 1988.

Five years ago, the panthers were damaged by the wind that accompanied Hurricane Irma. During that storm, a section of the male’s tail was broken off by a downed limb. Wind and flying debris opened a network of cracks in the female’s tail and hind legs, and Irma claimed the cub’s front proper leg.

But the cats and frog emerged from Ian unscathed and now, thanks to the dedicated staff of Parks & Beautification, the water feature is up and running again, allowing the panthers to once again luxuriate next to their respective bubbling basins.

The panther is the Florida state animal. It was chosen for the honor in 1982 by a vote of students throughout the state. As the plaque mounted on the side of the northern tidal pool states, the Florida Panther is on a “countdown to extinction.” Both the City of Fort Myers and the sculptor hope that The Florida Panther helps draw attention to the plight of this highly-endangered species.

The Florida Panthers and each of the City’s other 40 outdoor public artworks are administered by a 9-member Public Art Committee (which consists of 7 voting members and 2 alternates) that was established by an ordinance that was adopted by the City Council in 2004. Members serve for three-year terms, are not compensated, and must either be a resident of the city, work in the city, or be a member of an arts board or committee that is located in the city. The Public Art Committee oversees the commissioning, review, installation and maintenance of public art within the City. It meets in public session in City Council chambers on the third Tuesday of each month. Its next meeting is November 15.

November 2, 2022.


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