Mosaic NEST Opening Today in Robinson Preserve



The Manatee County Parks and Natural Resources Department (PNRD) takes its educational programming to a new level, literally, with today’s opening of the Mosaic Center for Nature, Exploration, Science and Technology, known more readily as the Mosaic NEST. Nestled amidst the 150-acre expansion to Robinson Preserve currently underway, which will include canoe and kayak launches, mangrove islands, tracks and walking trails, freshwater ponds and restored wetlands, the Mosaic NEST will be open to the public today at 4pm with a ribbon cutting, guided tours, special activities and a sneak peek at the coming expansion.

An elevated structure, the entire NEST is lifted off the ground to place the occupants among the thriving natural world of the tree canopy. “Almost as if you are in a tree house,” says PNRD Volunteer and Education Division Manager Melissa Nell, or a nest. Within this NEST, those looking out can wonder at an exotic landscape, as this part of Robinson Preserve actually preserves the area’s history as a botanical testing ground for species from around the world, not a refuge for Old Florida flora. Within, eyes and ears will be directed toward any number of educational programs hosted at the NEST. Old favorites like the Tall Tails Tribes for preschoolers and adult photography classes will transfer to this new location, and join new programs like yoga, Mommy and Me nature walks and a food-focused exploration that includes local plants used to make marshmallows. “We are locked and loaded and fully booked,” laughs Nell. “And we’re pretty excited.”

At tonight’s opening, which runs from 4pm to 6pm, there will be the ceremonial ribbon cutting and statements, but also guided tours and community activities designed to get participants hands-on with nature and learn a little bit. One activity asks visitors to decorate their own oyster shell and help volunteers recycle them by integrating them into a giant mat for new oysters to grow on. The opening will also give a curious community the opportunity to sneak a peek at the coming expansion to Robinson Preserve—something many have already taken to doing, trespassing illegally through the construction area. “So come on out and see it with us legally,” says Nell.

For those wondering if this means the NEST will soon be open to the public for casual viewing at their leisure, open eight hours a day and seven days a week, Nell says, “Probably not.” With 15 preserves, 50 parks and anywhere from 30 to 50 public events a month to staff and keep track of, Nell represents one of a staff of six, and the NEST did not come with any extra staff. The six do receive considerable help from an army of volunteers numbering near 3,000, but staffing the NEST on a permanent basis remains infeasible. A majority of the events held there, however, will be free and open to the public.

The Mosaic NEST opens tonight, February 16, at Robinson Preserve South with a ribbon cutting and community celebration from 4pm to 6pm. Visitors are asked to enter through the gate at the corner of 9th Avenue Northwest and 99th Street Northwest. Parking will be available.

Pictured: The Mosaic NEST. Photo by Aeden Stockdale/Manatee County Parks and Natural Resources.

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