From the top of Robinson Preserve’s newest attraction, you can get a 360-degree view of a land returning to its roots. Tall Australian pines mark where county-owned land stretches, far into the distance. Nearby, an eagle sounds off a whistle while watching over its nest.
“Manatee County residents can feel proud that they own everything they see,” said Charlie Hunsicker, director of the county’s parks and natural resources department.
The Mosaic Center for Nature, Exploration, Science and Technology (NEST) will have its grand opening Friday. Those who attend the grand opening will be able to get a chance to see the NEST and have a guided tour of the nearby expansion. Residents will have another chance to see the expansion at 10th Annual Robinson Preserve 5K on March 23.
The $4 million project includes a treehouse-like environmental classroom that will be open to educational programs and events like weddings or corporate retreats. The space has a slide and cargo net for fun, along with essentials like restrooms, WiFi and air-conditioning, especially for those hot summer days.
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But the NEST won’t be open every day as the county just doesn’t have the staffing. It will be run more like the Valentine House at the Robinson Preserve north entrance or the Rye Preserve Nature Center, and many parks programs will take place there. A waiting list to rent out the space has already formed, said the department’s volunteer and education division manager Melissa Nell.
“We want to open as much as they do,” Nell said about the 150-acre Robinson Preserve expansion. Once construction begins, it’s expected to take between eight and nine months to complete.
The land the NEST sits on was pine forest, Hunsicker said, and over time, it was turned into farmland. The expansion project aims to bring it back to its natural state with mangrove islands, marine habitats for juvenile snook and restored wetlands. For human visitors, canoe and kayak launches will be in the works along with turf made for running and biking.
“Grand openings are beginnings, and they’re beginnings of decades’ long committment of Manatee County leading up to this point to protect and preserve the environment,” Hunsicker said.
If you go
What: Grand opening of Robinson Preserve’s Mosaic Center for Nature, Exploration, Science and Technology
When: Feb. 16 from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Where: Enter the Robinson Preserve South Entrance at Ninth Avenue Northwest and 99th Street Northwest. Parking is available inside the new expansion property.
RSVP: Email Melissa Nell at firstname.lastname@example.org