The Dolphin Research Center in Marathon is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the middle keys. As Arianna Prothero tells us, the center has just finalized a 10-year master plan that capitalizes on tourism to help fund its research.
The center is part tourist attraction, part college, and part rescue and research facility. The plan is to upgrade the center's visitor attractions while also maintaining a focus on education and research. Visitors help fund the non-profit Dolphin Research Center.
Rita Irwin heads up the center and says they're improving the visitor experience by adding parking as well as more indoor exhibits.
"Right now I would say 90% of our offerings are outdoors", said Irwin. "Of course when you have dolphins and sea lions living at your facility, that's the main focus. But we have to remember that mother nature doesn't give us sunshine 365 days a year."
Other improvements are already underway. The Dolphin Research Center purchased a lot and building next door for its new College of Marine Mammal Professions. That opened in September.
The 10-year plan totals $8 million. So far, the center has raised $2 million.