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‘Ding’ Darling chosen as final contestant for America’s Best Bathroom

August 6, 2018
Island Reporter, Captiva Current, Sanibel-Captiva Islander

The public restrooms at the J.N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge's Visitor & Education Center on Sanibel are in the top 10 list of contestants in the 2018 America's Best Bathroom Contest.

Contest host Cintas Corporation recently informed the "Ding" Darling Wildlife Society-Friends of the Refuge that the Learning Lavatories restrooms project ranks among the annual contest's finalists.

Online voting for the contest began on Aug. 6 at The public can vote all day every day through Sept. 14. There is no limit to the number of times a person can vote each day, according to the website's contest rules.

Article Photos

An overview shot and details of the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge’s Learning Lavatories on Sanibel.

Cintas' judging criteria included cleanliness, visual appeal, innovation, functionality and unique design elements.

"We clearly lead in every one of those categories, especially innovation and unique design," Supervisory Refuge Ranger Toni Westland, a driving force behind the project, said. "I guarantee, there's no other restrooms like these in the world that are devoted to wildlife conservation and environmental awareness."

Funded by a $125,000 grant from the West Coast Inland Navigation District and contributions from private donors, Project #LearningLav debuted in October. It features educational imagery inside the lavatories and on the outdoor wall leading to them. The outdoor wall and ceiling mural immerses visitors in a virtual underwater experience, where they come eye-to-eye with 3-D manatees and can look up to see an alligator and other wildlife sculptures swimming overhead.

Article Map

Inside, the lavatories were renovated to green standards and continue the interpretive underwater

motif, featuring a photo-tile mangroves mural and more wildlife sculptures. Stall doors are wrapped with close-up photographs of refuge birds and identification information. Informative teaser messages were designed to entice visitors into the admission-free Visitor & Education Center to learn more.

The Learning Lavatories showcase the work of two artists. Sanibel artist Andrew Corke fashioned a mother and baby manatee out of recycled bike tires, while North Carolina artist David Williams sculpted other creatures out of foam and fiberglass. Williams painted the lifelike sculptures and one-dimensional aspects of the murals.

"We like to say that the restrooms have turned a 'nature call' into a 'nature enthrall,'" Refuge Manager Paul Tritaik said.

Visit to vote in the best bathroom contest. Follow #DingBestBathroom to monitor refuge standings on social media. To learn more about the Learning Lavatories, log on to



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