Tree Hill Nature Center

by Sam Kare
Looking for a respite from the daily pressures of the frantic pace? If just for a brief visit there is one haven of peaceful tranquility simply known as Tree Hill that will lift your spirits with their enchanted adventureland.
Located in the center of Jacksonville and 5 minutes from downtown, Tree Hill is home to 50 acres of trails, a Florida Natural History Museum, butterfly and hummingbird gardens and native animals. Tree Hill has provided the best in environmental and energy education for the Jacksonville community for over three decades. Nature walks, a natural history museum, live animal displays and a butterfly house provide fun learning experiences for visitors of all ages.
“We were green before green was cool,” Executive Director Lucy Cortese often tells visitors. “As we move into an exciting year, we’re inviting the community to visit Tree Hill to experience first-hand that eco-education is creative & fun. In fact, our mantra for 2009 is Green Your Imagination @ Tree Hill! We’re celebrating 38 years as a community resource for environmental education and experiences staying current with our new web site – – where there’s a variety of fun eco-activities for families, schools and business groups.”
Lucy Cortese, who has been at Tree Hill long enough to have planted acorns that are now trees, has the help of a very dedicated staff, a roster of eager volunteers, corporate supporters and individual benefactors that make their operations possible. With the economic challenges that are even more daunting with State funding cut-backs Tree Hill needed an angel. Board member Joseph A. Strasser is a philanthropic, regional leader who recognized a need in the Jacksonville community for a venue to host musical performances, films, lectures, plays and more. “We are forever grateful to Mr. Strasser for having his vision to build an outdoor venue that will support a variety of community programs and for his generosity in donating the funds to do this,” says Cortese. “With the addition of our beautiful Joseph A. Strasser Amphitheater we’re able to expand our presence, our programs and our revenue. We’ve become a true destination venue for events, receptions and corporate team building. Weddings will be particularly memorable for those who appreciate a peaceful, natural setting. Joseph A. Strasser is Tree Hill’s angel and we’re so fortunate to have his support. He supports us on multiple levels, most recently as the title sponsor of our 8th Annual Butterfly Festival on April 25. Mr. Strasser has made it possible for Tree Hill to survive the challenges that all non-profits face in a difficult economy. With his support and the support of our many corporate and community partners, we’ll grow.”
When you visit the new website, you’ll discover that Tree Hill is an efficient, non-profit nature center. With a streamlined staff of 3 full-time employees, a limited number of part-time employees who work on an as-need basis and a group of dedicated volunteers, Tree Hill continues to build important environmental programs with the support of area businesses and community partners that share a love of nature and believe that the opportunity to experience nature through education and fun family activities should be available for all.
Tree Hill has a special way with kids that transforms the great outdoors into a classroom of limitless discovery without walls or boundaries for their imaginations. Decades of Duval County school students have enjoyed field trips that focus on environmental education and a walk through three eco-systems. More often than not, these field trips are the first time many students and their parent chaperones experience nature first-hand. There are beautiful flowers and butterflies that all little girls enjoy and plenty of squirming, climbing and crawling creatures to entice the boys. Students and teachers have the opportunity to attend field study by Master Naturalists, Jamy Rose and Mark Mummaw, on a variety of environmental topics.
According to Environmental Services, Inc. VP and Tree Hill Board President, Tim Hamilton, “Tree Hill is a wonderful 50-acre environmental laboratory. When you visit, you’ll learn about the environment and eco-issues in a natural setting. Animal Encounters, Guided Trail Tours, Festivals or experiencing wildlife and nature in peaceful surroundings are a few of the ways individuals, groups and families can spend quality time together. Beyond providing on-site eco-programs, our experts are available for off-site programs for parents that home school and companies looking to provide green education for their staff.”
The sight, the smells the sounds of nature in harmony ignites creativity in people. Many of our local artisans follow that theme, capturing nature’s most beautiful scenes. You’ll never find a more alluring gallery of nature art than what is displayed beneath their giant glass pyramid. Tree Hill has recently enhanced their artistic environmental programs with a multitude of creative opportunities to experience the arts affordably in a natural setting. One new offering is a $20 Artist Membership with benefits that include free submission in an annual art exhibition, the opportunity for artists to sell their art in the Tree Hill Gift Gallery, a listing and exhibition announcements on the new Tree Hill web site and more. This year, the Tree Hill Artist Exhibition will be featured at the Downtown Library in August 2009 with the exhibition opening during the August 5 Downtown Art Walk. The public is invited to attend and meet these talented artists who share a love of nature.
Tree Hill’s inaugural Artist in Residence Joanelle Mulrain is a well-known regional artist whose work features unique ways to view nature. From historic cows to gorgeous willows to Dancing Birds and Tree Hill goats, Mulrain shares her artistic impressions through a variety of mediums.
This year Tree Hill is enthusiastically showing off their new amphitheatre and offering some exciting fun outings. There are new Family Saturday programs as a creative opportunity for families to enjoy arts and crafts projects in a natural environment.
With the early mornings around Tree Hill there’s only one thing that will turn squawking birds and sticky dew damped leaves into paradise and that’s a good cup of coffee. So, fittingly, Fazzini Coffee & Tea has launched a Tree Hill fundraiser called Sip & Support. Fazzini’s will donate a generous percent of all gourmet coffee sold with Tree Hill’s Logo back to the organization. Visit for more information about this enjoyable way to support Tree Hill.
Ever thought about naming a star for your kids or sweetheart as a birthday gift? Its nice, but you probably can’t see it, your certainly will never touch it and the gesture will be forgotten before the candles get cold. Name Your Tree is an opportunity to adopt a Tree(Hill). For $5, Tree Hill will send you the latitude and longitude of an on-site tree. You may find your tree, name your tree, take a photo of you and your tree, send the photo and name to Tree Hill where you and your tree will be listed on a special online Tree(Hill) Gallery for one year. If you identify the kind of tree you’ve adopted, your listing will be in bold. Visit for more information about this and other Tree Hill Fun(d) programs. Tree Hill Marketing Director Chris Robertson will facilitate adding your image to the web site and can be reached through the contact for located on the web site.
There’s so much to see and experience at Tree Hill. It’s a hidden treasure you should discover. It will enlighten your mind and refresh your soul. Stop by 7152 Lone Star Rd. in Arlington. It’s the big glass pyramid nestled in a forest of giant oaks just east of Arlington Road.

Looking ahead in 2009:
Saturday April 25
8th Annual Joseph A Strasser Butterfly Festival
noon-5 pm.
Bring the family for an afternoon of Springtime fun. There’s a Jax4Kids Fun Zone this year along with more arts activities, a steel drum workshop, live music and Simon the Goat. Jacksonville’s Green Leaders will