For more than a decade, Marianna City officials have been cleaning-up and dressing-up the downtown area. Attracting new business is the key to the effort.
However, there could soon be an unusual new addition to the downtown area. I will be home to a lot creepy, crawly, and sometimes, scary critters.
"Tommy is actually about 125lbs. Again, he is an alligator snapper turtle. They are the largest turtle in North America," said Ecologist Karl Studenroth.
Tommy is just one of the reptiles Studenroth keeps cooped up in his home.
He is the founder of the Northwest Florida Environmental Conservancy.
He has dreams of opening a nature center in downtown Marianna to display all his animals.
"It's gonna’ be snakes, it's gonna’ be turtles, it's going to be bats, salamanders, things that people don't even realize we have," he said.
Besides being entertaining, Studenroth says the animals also benefit us humans. "Bats eat up to two to 3000 insects in one night. Snakes eat thousands of rodents in their lifetime. We're going to be stressing the creepy crawly scary and unique things, rare and endangered species. Showing people how all these things work."
So when will you be able to see Studenroth menagerie? Maybe soon.
A local landlord is offering Studenroth space for the center in the Oaks Station Plaza off Hwy 90 in Marianna.
However, there's one big obstacle.
"The big part is to raise the funding to build the exhibits; to make the modifications to the building. To get ready to open for the public," Studenroth explained.
With any luck, Studenroth says the center will open at the end of the year.
Until then, he'll continue to show and tell people about his creatures from his home.
Studenroth says the organization needs at least $30,000 dollars by September 10th in order to begin building modifications.