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J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge Visitor & Education Center

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

Contest host Cintas Corporation this week informed the “Ding” Darling Wildlife Society-Friends of the Refuge (DDWS) that the refuge’s Learning Lavatories (#LearningLav) restrooms project ranks among the annual contest’s finalists.

Voting for the contest begins Monday, Aug. 6, on the contest’s website www.bestrestroom.com/us. The public is invited to 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.

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,” said Toni Westland, supervisory refuge ranger and a driving force behind the artistic, educational restrooms project. “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 (WCIND) and contributions from private donors, Project #LearningLav debuted in October 2017. 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 3D manatees and look up to see an alligator and other wildlife sculptures swimming overhead.

“We like to say that the restrooms have turned a ‘nature call’ into a ‘nature enthrall,’” said Paul Tritaik, refuge wildlife manager.

Visit www.bestrestroom.com/us 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 dingdarlingsociety.org/articles/project-bathroom.

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