Alaqua Animal Refuge unveils conceptual site plan for new facility

September 12, 2016

Phase I o new Alaqua Animal Refuge facility.
Phase I o new Alaqua Animal Refuge facility.

After countless hours of planning, Alaqua Animal Refuge unveiled Phase I of its new conceptual site plan. Located along State Highway 20 near the intersection of J. W. Hollington Road in Freeport, the beautiful property provides a perfect backdrop for what will become a one-of-a-kind animal facility and sanctuary, and the first of its kind anywhere in the United States.

Founded in 2007 by local resident Laurie Hood, the dream and vision for Alaqua Animal Refuge has always been to grow the shelter and expand its scope of animal welfare services to the community and beyond.

“From the very beginning, I wanted a place that would be different than traditional animal shelters. I wanted a place where happy animals would be surrounded by a pristine environment, making it peaceful to adopt and volunteer,” said Hood. “I wanted a place where animals of all sizes, shapes and kinds could heal and be provided shelter, safety and a second chance of life.”

Alaqua Animal Refuge is currently located on 10-acres of land on Whitfield Road, off Alaqua Creek in a major flood zone. This location became a key factor in the decision to ultimately begin to search for properties from which to relocate the Refuge, where the animals could be safe from the threat of hurricanes, heavy rain and flooding, and would also allow the Refuge an outlet to continue to forward their mission on a greater scale.

Hood’s dream was jump started by a generous gift of 85 acres from the late M.C. Davis and his wife Stella to aid in the organization’s permanent relocation, expansion, and long-term sustainability. An additional 15 acres were then purchased by funds given to Alaqua by a private donor. Together, these 100-acre parcels of land provide the peaceful, serene setting on which the new Refuge will be constructed.

Phase I of the new conceptual plan reflects a strategic site design that has been carefully created with public outreach, education, and streamlined animal care in mind—making Hood’s vision one step closer to becoming a reality.

The new development will feature an environment reminiscent of a close-knit community or small town, and elements include multiple pastures for horses and other animals; a state-of-the-art horse arena where events of all kinds can take place; an on-site restaurant and garden-like seating area; a chapel surrounded by woods for grieving families to have a place to hold memorial services for their pets; walking paths and trails; an expanded adoption center with a home-like environment; new animal and educational exhibits; and an advanced medical facility.

In conceptualizing the plans, Alaqua’s objective was to create a facility and sanctuary for animals, residents, and visitors alike. Onsite activities could entail weekend seminars on horse care or canine obedience; assisting local law enforcement with education and hands on examples of cruelty cases that will enable them to process their cases more effectively; and the expansion of Alaqua’s current programs such as their Equine Interactions Program and children’s educational programs to teach them to respect life in all forms. In addition, rustic cottages have been included as part of the overall design to provide a space for interns from veterinary schools to learn new skills, or for future sanctuary founders to experience what Alaqua has to offer. Alaqua’s ultimate goal is to become a destination for animal welfare advocates throughout the country and a model for the future of animal refuges.

The Alaqua conceptual plan was developed by a “dream team” of design, architecture, engineering, and consulting professionals that brought their forces together to bring Hood’s vision closer to reality. Designers and architects include Mark Schnell of Schnell Urban Design; Erik Vogt and Marieanne Khoury-Vogt of Khoury-Vogt Architects / Office of the Town Architect, Alys Beach; and Tony Vallee, of Anthony J. Vallee, Architect LLC. Engineers and land use consultants include: Cliff Knauer and Bill Menadier of Dewberry | Preble-Rish; Matt Aresco of Nokuse Plantation; and Jim Fowler, zoologist and former host of Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom. Bringing this vision to fruition is truly a community affair, as this powerhouse group of specialists have all given of their time and talents for an incredible organization doing great things.

No date has be set for groundbreaking on the facility.

“We do not know the timeline yet – lots of factors in play from County approval to construction timelines. We are planning on breaking ground on it all hopefully in January, 2017,” said Laurie Hood, founder.

About Alaqua Animal Refuge

Alaqua Animal Refuge is a no-kill animal sanctuary and adoption center located in Freeport, Florida. A member of the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries, Alaqua believes that every abused, neglected and homeless animal deserves a second chance. This private, nonprofit animal sanctuary is committed to serving the Emerald Coast as: the premier no-kill refuge, providing protection, shelter and care to animals in need; a full-service animal adoption center; and a peaceful, proactive animal welfare advocate through educational outreach and community programs. The Refuge has placed more than 12,000 animals of all kinds since its inception in 2007, and has grown to become a recognized leader in animal welfare and animal cruelty prevention.