Trout Lake Nature Center is a 230 acre wildlife preserve located on the north edge of Eustis, Florida. The property protects the flora and fauna of a unique wetlands-forest habitat bordering Trout Lake. TLNC is dedicated to increasing the environmental awareness of the citizens of Lake County and to the advancement of environmental education. The entrance is reached from County Road 44, 0.4 miles east of State Route 19 (MAP).
TLNC's property has a 1,000 foot long boardwalk extending into Trout Lake, hiking trails, a museum/classroom (Charles Newell Hall) and an environmental education building (housing a meeting room, which can be rented and hold up to 100 people).
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 the original development plan was completed with the installation of a manufactured building which was named Newell Hall to recognize Charles Newell's devotion to the development of TLNC. 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 building. Fundraising ensued to match a grant obtained from Lake County Parks and Recreation Department, a capital improvement funded from the extra penny sales tax. TLNC 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 building. 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.
TLNC has developed a plan to add more parking, move the maintenance area and add more classroom, meeting and office space along with visitor center. These additions will be phased in as funding becomes available and plans are finalized. 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.
TLNC has expanded and will continue to expand its education programs for students, children, adults and families. Expansions depend on impact to the natural resources, volunteer assistance, staffing and funds. TLNC 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 2015, over 5,0000 elementary school children visited as part of their science education and 2462 visitors walked the trails and enjoyed the facilities.
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.