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Get to Know Nature at Chinsegut’s Conservation Center

By Diane Bedard Posted on October 19, 2017

When I moved to Brooksville, the Chinsegut Conservation Center was having a class on pine needle basket weaving. I have a lot of pines on my property. Money was tight. I thought, maybe I could create some baskets with the kids for Christmas gifts, but I could not find the place!

I found the beautiful Manor House. I found the WMA Trailhead, but I could not find the education center located at 23212 Lake Lindsey Rd. in Brooksville. When I got a GPS and plugged it in, I discovered an amazing resource for the entire Nature Coast.

History of Chinsegut’s Wildlife Education Area

Colonel Bird Pearson purchased the area that is now Chinsegut. He was a Florida Senator.

Chinsegut Wildlife and Environmental Area was once part of 6,000 acres staked from the U.S. government in 1842 by Colonel Pearson of South Carolina and sold ten years later to Colonel F.H. Ederington.

Later, the land became home to pioneer farmers John and Susan Bishop, who timbered much of the virgin longleaf pine. Resin was extracted from many of the remaining pine trees, some of which still bear the distinctive “cat-face” scars where the bark was cut away. You can see some of these historic pines on a walk through the trail system at the Big Pine Tract.

This turpentine pine is located at Chinsegut Conservation Center, a remnant of the glory days of the turpentine industry in Central Florida.

The Longleaf loop travels 1.3 miles through one of the only remaining old growth longleaf pine forests left in Florida.

Today, only a chimney and two cisterns remain as evidence of the Bishop’s rural homestead.

Robert Raymond and Margaret Drier Robins riding at Chinsegut Hill, probably mid-1920s. Image courtesy of the Friends of Chinsegut.

In 1904, 2,082 acres were purchased by Elizabeth Robins for her and her brother, Colonel Raymond Robins, to rest and enjoy. Colonel Robins was an attorney who served as an economic advisor to five presidents. Elizabeth Robins was a successful international actress and author who provided the needed capital to purchase the large parcel.

In 1932, the Robins deeded their estate to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) under the Migratory Bird Conservation Act to be preserved for “inspiration and education of the next generation.”

Chinsegut Conservation Center’s Mission is Natural Education

Beginners archery for adults – image courtesy of Alice Mary Herndon of Green Fly Media

Gina Long (Philhower) is the Director of Chinsegut Conservation Center. When asked what her favorite part of her job is, she said, “I really enjoy introducing people to the things that I am passionate about: the Florida environment and its flora and fauna. The classes and walks we hold here allow residents and visitors to experience Florida’s natural state and learn how to utilize and conserve what we have.”

Classes in archery, cooking in the woods, outdoor living skills, animal and plant identification are all part of the Conservation Center’s mission.

November’s Classes

Wednesday Wildlife Walk

November 1st 5:00 PM        While the weather is nice why not enjoy the outdoors by joining the Chinsegut staff for a guided walk to look for some of the areas wildlife. Never know what you might see on one of these hour long hikes. Visit areas of the property not often seen by hikers, learn a little about history and ecology along the way. Register by calling (352) 754-6722. Open to all ages.

Trees, Marvelous Trees hike

November 3rd 10:00 AM        Join Arborist Ken Morgan for a casual paced guided hike through Chinsegut to learn about local trees, identifying them and maintaining them in your landscape. Ken is a second generation tree care expert with a passion for sharing his knowledge. This is a free program brought to you by the Hernando County UF/IFAS Extension Office. No registration required.

Night Hike

November 3rd 6:30 PM       As the seasons change our night time encounters will as well. Join Chinsegut staff to see who is up when the sun goes down during this time of year. Ages 16+ for this hike please, register at (352) 754-6722.

 

Bat houses help to attract the insect-eating mammals to your yard.

Bird Box Build-A-Thon

November 4th 10:00 AM     Join us at Chinsegut for a day filled with bird activities, bird hikes and most importantly bird box building. Select from plans for a blue bird box, a flycatcher box, kestrel or bat box. Bat Belfry’s will have a table set up for information on bats and will give a talk at 2:00 PM on Florida Bats.

Bluebird box 5$
Flycatcher     10$
Kestrel           15$
Bat Box                   20$
Order in advance to save your project!

Turkey Talk

November 11th 10:00 AM     Tis the season to talk turkey. The varieties of wild turkey common to the Americas have a fascinating conservation history. Learn how game bird management ensures a turkey for every table for the future and along the way helps to save space for other species. Free program, no need to register.

Wednesday Wildlife Walk

November 15th 5:00 PM        While the weather is nice why not enjoy the outdoors by joining the Chinsegut staff for a guided walk to look for some of the areas wildlife. Never know what you might see on one of these hour long hikes. Visit areas of the property not often seen by hikers, learn a little about history and ecology along the way. Register by calling (352) 754-6722. Open to all ages.

Beginning Birding Hike

November 17th 8:30 AM       Join Hernando Audubon volunteers for a guided hike to find the fall, feathered residents of Chinsegut and those passing through. This great program, for all levels of birder includes a hike to Mays Prairie. Guides and binoculars may be borrowed from the Center. No need to register for this free program.

CITW; Recipes for Wildlife

November 18th 2:00 PM       This time of year lots of hungry birds are making their way south, right through our yards! Children ages 5-9 (younger is okay too) can join us at the Center for a program on birds and migration during which we will “cook” up some good eats for the birds. Children will each take home a bird seed ornament. Please register on-line at MyFWC.com/Chinsegut or call (352) 754-6722.

Wildlife Stake-out

November 19th 7:00 AM      This wildlife photography session will give you the opportunity to shoot from concealed positions around the WEA. Locations will be selected based on animal activity giving you the best chance to see and photograph wildlife. Limited spaces available. Please bring a chair along, we provide the blinds. To register and for more information visit https://creative-nature-photography.com/ Fee $40.00

Wednesday Wildlife Walk

November 29th 5:00 PM        While the weather is nice why not enjoy the outdoors by joining the Chinsegut staff for a guided walk to look for some of the areas wildlife. Never know what you might see on one of these hour long hikes. Visit areas of the property not often seen by hikers, learn a little about history and ecology along the way. Register by calling (352) 754-6722. Open to all ages.

A Unique Education Center in Florida

Chinsegut’s Wildlife Education Area is the only environmental education center in the Habitat and Species Conservation Division of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

The Chinsegut Wildlife Education Center is unique. With outdoor classrooms it focuses on nature education. Image courtesy of Carole Knudsen.

“There are other Environmental Education Centers and Youth Conservation Centers, but they are focused on outdoors education that includes boating and outdoor skills. We do not have a large body of water here and were originally a stand-alone,” Gina explains, “We focus on wildlife viewing programs and the environmental sciences.”

Hiking, Birding and Butterflies

May’s Prairie is a large wetland ecosystem that visitors can walk completely around. Many migratory birds make a stop at Chinsegut.

A site on the Great Florida Birding and Wildlife Trail, Chinsegut is a choice location for seeing migratory as well as resident birds. White-tailed deer are a common sight. Download and print the Chinsegut Bird List. The Conservation Center’s butterfly garden attracts a colorful array of butterflies throughout the year, with peak butterfly numbers in late summer and fall.

The trailhead at the corner of Snow Memorial Highway and US 41 is open year-round. Visitors may park here to hike trails in the Conservation Center Tract or the Big Pine Tract via the Prairie-to-Pines Trail.

The southernmost parse of land identified as old growth longleaf pine is located in the Big Pine Tract. Some trees are 80 feet tall and over 300 years old.

Hunting and fishing are prohibited on both the Conservation Center and Big Pine tracts. Visitors will find a profusion of wildflowers and butterflies on Big Pine Tract in the fall and the Conservation Center’s garden hosts numerous butterfly species.

The Chinsegut Conservation Center offers a wide variety of educational programs and hikes throughout the year.

Chinsegut Conservation Center’s outdoor classroom can be a relaxing place to learn.

Workshop and event information is covered each month in NatureCoaster.com and on our Events Calendar.

The Conservation Center is open to the public Friday and Saturday from 8 am – 2 pm, and during regularly scheduled programs or by appointment (352-754-6722).

 

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