The Oklawaha Valley Audubon Society ( OVAS ), a chapter of the Audubon Society, was formed on February 24, 1964. More than 20 years later, OVAS decided to expand their education program to include a nature center, forming a committee under the leadership of Charles Newell to explore suitable sites in Lake County.
Early in 1987 the committee learned of a wetland tract on Trout Lake, Eustis, which had been a part of the Haselton Dairy Farm in the 1960s. Mrs. Jean Lenkerd, of the Haselton family, was willing to sell 166 acres on Trout Lake. Another 11 acres along the road was included from Mr. Tom Haselton. At the same time, a Conservation Easement in Perpetuity was arranged on 53 acres owned by the City of Eustis. The terms of the conservation easement included proper management, no hunting or fishing and no charge to visitors during routine open hours. This brought the whole package to 230 acres. In July 1988, OVAS bought the two parcels, assumed the conservation easement and the nature center became a reality. (MAP)
Subsequently, the decision was made by OVAS to incorporate the venture as a 501(c)3 non-profit corporation called Trout Lake Nature Center, Inc.
Development of the site as a nature center moved rapidly, beginning with fencing, engineering and construction of an access road, and the laying out of trails to the lake. As funds became available, a boardwalk and dock were built over the wetlands to the open water.
Guided walks and open hours were provided by volunteers. The Kiwanis Clubs of Lake County built the picnic pavilion.
The final phase of this original development plan was completed with the installation of a new manufactured building which was named Newell Hall to recognize Charles Neweli's devotion to the development of the nature center. This new building provided a meeting room to hold programs and membership meetings, space to house a growing museum collection and restrooms for the volunteers and visitors. With the building in place by 1993, school field trips were added in 1994 in addition to the group tours and open hours.
It soon became necessary to plan for a larger meeting area and both TLNC and OVAS committed to the effort to build the present Environmental Education Center. Fund raising ensued to match a grant obtained from Lake County Parks and Recreation Department, a capital improvement funded from the extra penny sales tax. The Nature Center soon matched the grant and a Building Construction Committee researched the building possibilities. The plans were chosen by 1996 and the building was dedicated in April 1997.
By 1999, Newell Hall had become the Newell Hall and Museum and another grant of $10,000 was obtained to further develop the museum and the collection of mounted wildlife specimens native to central Florida. Additional donations permitted the purchase of more mounted wildlife specimens, but space limitations in the museum forced expansion into the Environmental Education Center. Eventually, the purchase of additional specimens ceased, other than the acquisition of an occasional small specimen. It became apparent that more attention should be given to the restoration and preservation of some of the oldest specimens.
Having devised a fiveyear strategic plan for Trout Lake Nature Center that included the construction of a third building (Aquatics Lab), work on that project was begun. Although this building would be the smallest of the three, this project was delayed by governmental regulations.
In the meantime, Mr. Charles Newell passed away in 2002. His widow and son were well aware of the decaying condition of the museum and its other inadequacies, and made an initial donation of $10,000 to start the process for construction of a new museum and classroom center.
A Museum Committee worked on the design for a new building that would enlarge the space for the display of mounted animal and bird specimens, and include a classroom, office, storage rooms, and exterior porch classroom. In addition, it was decided to incorporate an aquatics lab under the same roof. The estimated total cost is $230,000.
Trout Lake Nature Center is unique in Lake County, being the only site where persons of all ages can learn about plants, trees, birds and animals that are native to central Florida. During 2006, some 2,500 elementary school children visited as part of their science education and 2462 visitors walked the trails and enjoyed the museum.
The Center is open to the general public at no charge, six days a week, year round. In addition, there are periodic educational meetings on subjects ranging from photography to birdwatching, and several local organizations conduct their meetings at the Center.
As our land in Florida succumbs to development, we must ensure that future generations have the opportunity to learn about the past and do their part to help their environment. The goals of Trout Lake Nature Center provide a unique opportunity for you to contribute toward that dedication. Our new facility will enable us to ensure that not only the children, but also all of the people of Lake County understand the need to preserve our environment and the animals that reside here.
You may make a gift of money or marketable securities, or spread a pledge over two years, for easy payment. We have several special opportunities available if you would like to have a room in the facility or an exhibit named for yourself or in memory of a loved one. All donations will be duly recognized.
Since Trout Lake Nature Center, Inc., Eustis, Florida is recognized as a 501(c)3 organization, all donations are considered to be a tax-deductible gift. The treasurer annually files a form 990 with the IRS. A copy is on file at Trout Lake Nature Center and is available for public inspection upon request.