NEST opening soon

The NEST will open at Robinson Preserve on Friday, Feb. 16 from 4-6 p.m. with a family-friendly event sponsored by Manatee County’s Parks and Natural Resources Department.

The event will include a ribbon cutting, guided tours of the NEST, short for “MOSAIC Center for Nature, Exploration, Science and Technology,” nature-themed activities and sneak peek tours of the new expansion at Robinson Preserve.

The NEST, an education center that will feature classrooms for unique programs beginning later this year, is nestled in a coastal hammock and elevated like a tree house.

It is surrounded by 150 acres of the Robinson Preserve expansion, which will feature canoe and kayak launches, mangrove islands, a 5k track, a 1.6-mile jogging and walking trail featuring “heartbreak hill,” freshwater ponds for a sport fish nursery, restored wetlands and a connection to the existing preserve, according to Parks and Natural Resources Department officials.

The 487-acre Robinson Preserve, bordered by Tampa Bay, the Manatee River and Perico Bayou, was purchased by the county from the Robinson family in 2002 for $10 million, in part with a $6 million grant from Florida Communities Trust. The Robinson family kept 200 acres bordering the land to develop a residential subdivision and an 18-hole golf course, but 150 acres of that was later purchased from the Robinson family with funds raised by the not-for-profit Conservation Foundation of the Gulf Coast, which donated the land to the county.

Robinson Preserve’s gates open at 7:30 a.m. and close at 6 p.m. Entrances are at the western end of 17th Avenue Northwest in Bradenton and on the south side of Manatee Avenue west of the Perico Island Bridge.