Trout Lake Nature Center Inc.

Making Nature Connections

Eustis, FL   |  www.troutlakenaturecenter.com

Mission

Trout Lake Nature Center's (TLNC) is dedicated to conserving and protecting the natural environment and educating the public about its importance. An educated citizenry that understands our connection to, and interdependence within, the world around us will become a vital force in protecting our water, soils, forests, wetlands, prairies, and our wildlife — our planet’s natural resources. TLNC incorporates the following core values into its programs: Cultivate a sense of wonder and awe for the environment. Develop stewardship of the environment. Connect people to nature. Create awareness and increase knowledge through quality interpretation and education for all ages. Provide hands-on experiences (nature in your hands). Experience the natural world through investigation, observation and exploration. Develop respect and camaraderie while increasing diversity among those involved with TLNC. We are a model of sustainable stewardship of nature. Celebrating over three decades of operations within the Central Florida community, TLNC is proud of the many lives it has touched through its multi-faceted programs. When past students bring their children to TLNC, we are able to see the difference we have made. We continue to evolve and grow to meet the needs of residents, visitors, families and children as our world and area changes and grows.

Ruling year info

1991

Executive Directors

Eileen Tramontana

Main address

520 East County Road 44

Eustis, FL 32736 USA

Show more contact info

EIN

59-3039878

NTEE code info

Environmental Education and Outdoor Survival Programs (C60)

Natural Resource Conservation and Protection (C30)

Wildlife Preservation/Protection (D30)

IRS filing requirement

This organization is required to file an IRS Form 990 or 990-EZ.

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Communication

Programs and results

What we aim to solve

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Our programs

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

What are the organization's current programs, how do they measure success, and who do the programs serve?

Video STEM Lessons

Using creative means such as puppets, animal costumed characters, we have developed several "lesson" about wildlife, habitats and more. We are in the process of developing a viable YouTube Channel to allow access and use by children and schools to these resources along with the public. This channel will be added to throughout the year to make it more robust and useful.

Population(s) Served
Families
Parents
Young adults
Adolescents
Children

TLNC is a popular participant in school STEM and Science Nights bringing hands on activities, touch items, and microscopes for up close viewing of macro invertebrates, insects, leaves and other natural items. Students safely handle water scorpions and observe crayfish, tadpoles, and minnows to draw them into the wonders of the natural sciences. Students and their families line up to use the microscopes and ask questions about the mounts, display and natural objects. On average between 200 to 300 people interact with TLNC's science table during these two-hour events held all over the area. Due to time and funding, many schools can't afford to travel to TLNC for field trips. So, TLNC comes to the schools and provides in-school class-by-class presentations. Topics that center around state standards but follow an environmental theme are provided for teachers to select. For example, students interview Ms. Trichechus (the scientific name for a manatee) to learn about adaptations.

Population(s) Served
Families
Preteens
Children
Adolescents

TLNC works with many youth organizations to provide education programs tailored for the specific needs of the organization. Scout programs provide information about trees, plants, hiking, wildlife and community services. 4H and other youth groups come to TLNC to learn about the environment or to take part in community service projects. Programs are tailored to meet the needs of the visiting group and include survival, black bears, water, wildlife and more.Nature Sprouts and other education programs are provided for youth with or without adults throughout the year. For example, Nature Sprouts is for 2 to 5 year olds to provide a positive nature experience and introduce young children to nature explorations. Research shows exploration, free play and nature connections are essential for brain development, socialization, developing empathy for others, reducing stress, and creating a willingness to explore the natural world. TLNC serves as a service site for schools, scouts and the courts.

Population(s) Served
Families
Children and youth
Young adults

TLNC serves as the leader in environmental education professional development in Lake and surrounding counties for both formal and non-formal educators. National and state programs such as Project WET, Project WILD, Project Learning Tree (PLT), Growing up WILD, and Florida Black Bear are offered throughout the year. Professional development helps to prepare teachers for their student field trips and provides them with lessons and activities that they can use back in their classrooms as follow-up lessons. Training is structured to meet the Department of Education’s requirements and in-service points are offered.Recent workshops included PLT’s Southeastern Forests Climate Change, Project WET and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math). Workshops vary from 40 hours to 6 hours in length. They include classroom instruction coupled with hands-on teaching experiences along with how to use technology

Population(s) Served
Adults
Teachers

Monthly Friday Night Naturalist programs that feature a variety of speakers on topics that range from black bears to mushrooms to climate change are conducted. Typically between 40 and 80 people attend these events. A variety of field trips, workshops and events are held to get adults involved in outdoor experiences. These include guided nature hikes, bird surveys, moonlight hikes, star-gazing and more. Environmental education programs are conducted for adult and family audiences either at the Nature Center or other locations.  Sometimes these programs are conducted jointly with other organizations. Examples of these programs are:  Birding4Kids, Daybreak Birding, Turtle Day, Family Naturalist and Mushroom Forays.

Population(s) Served
Adults
Families

TLNC works with many groups, organizations and agencies to help to conserve and protect natural areas. An important part of conservation, is understanding how natural systems function and the ecological and economic values of these lands. TLNC works to teach the science of ecosystems, wildlife interactions and many other important biological functions of these conservation lands.Part of TLNC's conservation program is showing proper habitat management on its lands. Using new techniques to promote biodiversity, working with CISMA (Cooperative Invasive Species Management Area) to spread the word about invasive species both plants and animals. We regularly organize invasive removal days to reduce invasive plants on our property and teach about these noxious plants and the damage they do to natural habitats. Conservation of our lands is a constant and ongoing struggle due to the nature of the property--primarily a wetlands--and lack of funds, equipment and staff. As a nature center, we limit the use of herbicides and chemicals to control invasive plants. Instead we use approved biological agents such as the Air Potato Beetle, hand removal, forestry mulching and prescribed burning. Annually, we participate in National Public Lands Day to promote invasive controls and proper land management.

Population(s) Served
Adults
Adolescents

TLNC's habitat is primarily composed of wetlands and lake with minimal upland areas. Historically, it was a mesic flatwoods that was converted into a citrus grove and dairy. Since establishment of TLNC, the land has become overgrown and has become a "climax" community with minimal biodiversity. Climax communities are characterized by dense canopy, reduced plant species, and little understory resulting in less wildlife and diversity. To maintain healthy ecosystems, it is important to open up the canopy through control burns or alternative. Burning also helps to control invasive exotics. Opening the canopy allows sun to reach the ground and increases plant diversity.TLNC is using forestry mulching in place of burning to open the canopy. Also, TLNC is working to contain, reduce and if possible eliminate exotics such as Chinese tallow, Brazilian pepper, camphor and Caesar's weed. All efforts are being directed by a land management plan under development.

Population(s) Served

TLNC began with a few schools coming on field trips and has grown to 65 to 70 field trips per school year with up to 50 students on a trip. Grade-level programs are aligned with state science standards and are regularly updated to remain current with state standards and best teaching practices.Field experiences involve 4 hands-on activities that focus on teaching grade-level lessons using the outdoors and TLNC's campus as learning centers. Divided into four groups to keep a small instructor to student ratio which promotes better learning, students rotate through the lessons. Instructor training is an essential part of keeping education programs relevant and successful. TLNC instructors receive monthly training in science concepts, implementation of programs, group dynamics, and more. When programs are revised, instructor training is revised. When possible, we try to provide teaching teams for each activity. This increases learning and helps with transitions.

Population(s) Served
Adults
Children and youth
Adults
Children and youth

Where we work

Awards

Certificate of Nonprofit Management 2020

Rollins College

Affiliations & memberships

Association of Nature Center Administrators (ANCA) 2014

League of Environmental Educators in Florida (LEEF) 2000

Florida Association of Science Teachers (FAST) 2014

Florida Marine Science Educators Association (FMSEA) 2014

National Association for Interpretation (NAI) 2014

North American Association of Environmental Education (NAAEE) 2014

National Project WET State Coordinator 2020

Our results

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

How does this organization measure their results? It's a hard question but an important one.

Number of individuals applying skills learned through the organization's training

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Population(s) Served

Age groups

Type of Metric

Output - describing our activities and reach

Direction of Success

Increasing

Context Notes

This includes both students and adults and families

Total number of volunteer hours contributed to the organization

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Population(s) Served

Children and youth, Families

Related Program

Restoration

Type of Metric

Other - describing something else

Direction of Success

Holding steady

Our Sustainable Development Goals

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Learn more about Sustainable Development Goals.

Goals & Strategy

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Learn about the organization's key goals, strategies, capabilities, and progress.

Charting impact

Four powerful questions that require reflection about what really matters - results.

TLNC’s aims to educate people so they can make responsible decisions (about development, sustainability, resources and human activities) to protect and conserve Florida's ecosystems. 1 Expand infrastructure to replace aging buildings and improve or increase habitat, trails and teaching areas: TLNC will be a Florida leader and a central hub for nature and nature-based education throughout the region. After decades of use, TLNC needs to upgrade its infrastructure, exhibits and program areas to continue to meet current and future needs.TLNC manages and is responsible for 230 acres of natural areas.  New space will allow TLNC to increase programming thus appealing to diverse audiences. Once new facilities, infrastructure and exhibits are completed, TLNC will function more efficiently while still allowing for personal nature experiences. 2 Encourage people to make positive connections with nature: America has the first generation totally disconnected from nature. Our challenge is to engage the disconnected. Research shows that nature connections improve our physical and mental health. Nature therapy helps with PTSD, ADHD, and other challenges faced by a growing population. Everyone’s physical and mental health responds to what happens in the environment. Making nature connections are important for creating an appreciation for and concern about our natural systems. As people move around, they need to learn about their area and how their life decisions can affect natural systems. As evidenced by the recent pollution impacts occurring in South Florida, it is essential to understand the interrelationships between land, water, people and the economy. 3 Diversify audiences: Research shows nature centers visitors are typically older, middle class, college-educated and Caucasian. TLNC’s largest demographic is 50 years and older. Usually younger people and minorities are not engaged in nature-based activities. In order to attract younger and more diverse groups, TLNC needs to include programs such as fishing, birding, citizen science, and other gateway programs. Communicating with young people and new user groups requires different methods such as social media, technology and progressive activities.  We are shifting to a younger demographic by introducing  more family-friendly and youth-oriented activities. 4 Develop viable nature center network: As the only nature center in Lake County, it will become more difficult to serve the county and surrounding areas. Growth and population increases make it important to provide EE and nature experiences closer to home. TLNC proposes to create a network of nature centers throughout the county. As the program experts, TLNC would establish a sustainable nature network. Initial discussions have taken place with the Lake County Board of County Commissioners and key individuals. TLNC will encourage other entities or organizations to consider developing nature facilities within their jurisdictions.

To develop a sustainable and effective EE center, it is important to look at and evaluate all aspects of TLNC--programs, facilities, exhibits, training and more.TLNC is committed to renovating its infrastructure and has improved its boardwalk, teaching dock, trails and interpretive materials but much remains to be done. Plans for a facilities expansion to add an exit road and parking area, connect to city sewer, replace the museum and add classroom spaces were developed and fundraising is happening. Facilities improvements and expansions will allow TLNC to meet future demands for programs, improve safety, and develop new exhibits and learning spaces. We evaluate programs, trails, travel patterns, and exhibits to determine their value and effectiveness in working towards TLNC's mission. Or more simply said to find out what works and what doesn't. Do we need to continue a program or is the audience ready to take the next learning step? Can it be better? Is it making connections for participants? Are they engaged? Curious? Will it change behavior?  Based on these evaluations, we revise or eliminate any programs not serving TLNC's mission and develop new programs that build on what was done before or takes us further. To help people make positive connections to nature and diversify our audiences, we are adding innovative programs that appeal to people who are not environmentalists or the typical nature center visitor. These programs include Birding4Kids (teaching how to bird in your backyard, birding is a growing sport and helps to connect with nature), mushroom classes (having mycologists speak and lead a foray into the woods), Sunset Sipping (wine-tasting nature hike), Bears and Claus (a holiday event with an educational twist), and special speakers from around the state and country. Biodiversity is a key component of any healthy ecosystem and diversity is a key component of a sustainable nature center. TLNC is connected with several organizations and groups that work with challenged individuals and TLNC works to be an autism-friendly location. We hope to partner with the medical community and other groups to develop and build an Eco-therapy Trail to address both mental and physical health needs of adults and children. Nature is a great healer.  During the past year, TLNC has become a destination for minorities in the area. We are seeing more diversity in our audiences and visitors. Finally to create a viable nature center network in Lake County, we held discussions with county officials and staff about developing a nature center network or Parks Foundation with TLNC administering and managing the system through a contract. In addition, TLNC staff has met with the City of Clermont and Chamber of Commerce about starting a nature center in southern Lake County. We will continue to encourage the exploration of further nature centers development and networking within the region.

Staff, volunteers, board members and Advisory Council are valued TLNC assets. Staff with a variety of technical, educational and administrative experiences are complemented by the expertise of TLNC’s volunteer core. Volunteers possess professional experience which they use to benefit TLNC. Graphic, legal, forestry, water resources, building, program development, and evaluation are some expertise found within TLNC. As an active members in the Florida Chapter of the Association of Nature Center Administrators, League of Environmental Educators in Florida, National Association of Interpretation, and North American Association of Environmental Education, TLNC staff and volunteers receive professional development allowing them to stay abreast of the latest education and interpretive practices and techniques. TLNC's field experiences and programs are considered as fun but valuable learning experiences. Through constant monitoring, evaluation and updating, TLNC’s programs stay current with education needs and standards while remaining engaging. Through a long-established relationship with Lake County Water Authority (LCWA) and Lake County School District, TLNC has been able to offer funding to support its programs. The LCWA, Audubon Society, Native Plant Society, Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission, and In Focus Photo Club are some of the organizations that support TLNC programs and education activities allowing us to expand the depth and breath of our program offerings.   Using the knowledge and expertise of local foresters and land managers, TLNC's Habitat Committee is formulating a land management plan to determine habitat improvements and needs. TLNC is faced with difficulty controlling invasive exotics. Active participation in the Big Scrub CISMA (Cooperative Invasive Species Management Areas) helps TLNC stay well-informed about new invasives and control methods. TLNC is used as a training area, assists with programs for landowners and managers on invasives and serves as the fiscal agent for Big Scrub CISMA. TLNC maintains partnerships ranging from local, county, state and federal agencies to environmental and education groups and nature centers. Partnerships and collaborations are what makes environmental education work. TLNC is an official Project Learning Tree Center, Florida Youth Conservation Camp Network partner and recently became the Project WET coordinator for the League of Environmental Educators in Florida and Project WET USA in Florida. These statewide programs expand the capabilities and reach of TLNC helping to market its programs to new areas and audiences. These partnerships recognize the fact that TLNC is becoming a leader in the area of EE.

To achieve success and remain a strong viable organization, TLNC must improve its fiscal resources. To this end, TLNC is developing a fundraising plan and engaging in a Capitol Building Campaign. Work to update policies and procedures to improve the administrative structure of the organization continues. By-laws are consistent and up-to-date but are reviewed annually. An endowment fund is established to provide long term funding sustainability. Also, campaigns to increase participation in Sustaining Sponsors and membership are being implemented. Again, the Sustaining Sponsorship will allow for a 5 year commitment and better budgeting.

Volunteer recruitment is a constant need but volunteer retention is as important. TLNC is known as a good place to volunteer where one can make a difference. There are a variety of jobs for volunteers and everyone can contribute. With Covid, retaining and motivating volunteers has been a challenge. Adequate staffing remains an issue and is dependent on increased funding. So far, volunteers are able to fill in many voids but as the demand increases staff will be needed.  

During the past year, TLNC has developed activities to encourage visitors to walk our trails and spend time looking more deeply at nature through a story trail, hidden stone animals, egg hunt, scavenger hunts and more. We are beginning to return to normal school programs but progress is slow. TLNC is spending more time going to the schools since field trips are limited by the school district.

An engineering firm is completing the site plan for the new parking area, required retention pond and relocation of the work area. Funding to support our building campaign has been made to the Florida legislature and we anticipate funding happening this year.

How we listen

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Seeking feedback from people served makes programs more responsive and effective. Here’s how this organization is listening.

done We demonstrated a willingness to learn more by reviewing resources about feedback practice.
done We shared information about our current feedback practices.
  • Who are the people you serve with your mission?

    Residents, students, families and visitors to Central Florida.

  • How is your organization collecting feedback from the people you serve?

    Electronic surveys (by email, tablet, etc.), Paper surveys, Focus groups or interviews (by phone or in person), Community meetings/Town halls, Constituent (client or resident, etc.) advisory committees, Suggestion box/email, Evaluation forms,

  • How is your organization using feedback from the people you serve?

    To identify and remedy poor client service experiences, To identify bright spots and enhance positive service experiences, To make fundamental changes to our programs and/or operations, To inform the development of new programs/projects, To strengthen relationships with the people we serve, To understand people's needs and how we can help them achieve their goals,

  • What significant change resulted from feedback?

    Because of Covid, we switched our on-site programs to meet CDC guidelines and continued to provide field trips to students. We also adapted to doing in-school presentations for the schools that can't travel to our site. With our in-school presentations, we accommodated virtual classes so no one was left out of the experience.

  • With whom is the organization sharing feedback?

    Our staff, Our board, Our community partners,

  • How has asking for feedback from the people you serve changed your relationship?

    They realize that we are continually trying to improve and they notice when we have made changes based on information received. They are willing to share their ideas and suggestions with us with no fear of reprisal.

  • Which of the following feedback practices does your organization routinely carry out?

    We aim to collect feedback from as many people we serve as possible, We take steps to ensure people feel comfortable being honest with us, We look for patterns in feedback based on people’s interactions with us (e.g., site, frequency of service, etc.), We act on the feedback we receive,

  • What challenges does the organization face when collecting feedback?

    It is difficult to get the people we serve to respond to requests for feedback, We don’t have the right technology to collect and aggregate feedback efficiently, It is difficult to find the ongoing funding to support feedback collection, Staff find it hard to prioritize feedback collection and review due to lack of time, We have a small staff and must rely on volunteers,

Financials

Trout Lake Nature Center Inc.
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Operations

The people, governance practices, and partners that make the organization tick.

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Connect with nonprofit leaders

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Connect with nonprofit leaders

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Trout Lake Nature Center Inc.

Board of directors
as of 02/22/2022
SOURCE: Self-reported by organization
Board chair

Mr. Stan Napier

Retired Chemist and Inventor of Green Products

Term: 2017 - 2023

Joan Bryant

Retired, Publisher and Small Business Owner

Margie LaRoe

Retired, Graphic Artist and Administrative Assistant Lake County School Board

Morris Pelham

Retired, US Dept. of Treasury, Home Remodeling Business

Horace Thompson

Retired Civil Engineer

Stan Napier

Retired, Masters in Aquatic Ecology, Inventor of Green Products and Chemist

Dee Bender

Retired, Accounting field

Ron Neibert

City of Eustis City Manager

Paul Kelly

Retired, Finance

Bob Wexler

Retired

Cathy Catasus

Supervisor Water Lab

Joann Rittenhouse

Retired

Board leadership practices

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

GuideStar worked with BoardSource, the national leader in nonprofit board leadership and governance, to create this section.

  • Board orientation and education
    Does the board conduct a formal orientation for new board members and require all board members to sign a written agreement regarding their roles, responsibilities, and expectations? Yes
  • CEO oversight
    Has the board conducted a formal, written assessment of the chief executive within the past year ? No
  • Ethics and transparency
    Have the board and senior staff reviewed the conflict-of-interest policy and completed and signed disclosure statements in the past year? Yes
  • Board composition
    Does the board ensure an inclusive board member recruitment process that results in diversity of thought and leadership? Not applicable
  • Board performance
    Has the board conducted a formal, written self-assessment of its performance within the past three years? No

Organizational demographics

SOURCE: Self-reported; last updated 12/9/2021

Who works and leads organizations that serve our diverse communities? GuideStar partnered on this section with CHANGE Philanthropy and Equity in the Center.

Leadership

The organization's leader identifies as:

Race & ethnicity
White/Caucasian/European
Gender identity
Female, Not transgender (cisgender)
Sexual orientation
Heterosexual or Straight
Disability status
Person without a disability

Race & ethnicity

Gender identity

 

Sexual orientation

Disability

We do not display disability information for organizations with fewer than 15 staff.

Equity strategies

Last updated: 12/09/2021

GuideStar partnered with Equity in the Center - an organization that works to shift mindsets, practices, and systems to increase racial equity - to create this section. Learn more

Data
  • We ask team members to identify racial disparities in their programs and / or portfolios.
Policies and processes
  • We seek individuals from various race backgrounds for board and executive director/CEO positions within our organization.
  • We engage everyone, from the board to staff levels of the organization, in race equity work and ensure that individuals understand their roles in creating culture such that one’s race identity has no influence on how they fare within the organization.