Hobe Sound Nature Center
The Hobe Sound Nature Center, Inc. is a private, non-profit organization, dedicated to environmental awareness and education. The Center is a cooperating association with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and located at the Hobe Sound National Wildlife Refuge, 13640 SE Federal Highway, on U.S. 1 in southern Martin County. National Wildlife Refuge passes can be obtained from the Center.
This environmental learning facility was established by Mr. Jackson Burke and Mrs. Elizabeth Kirby for the Jupiter Island Garden Club, Inc. The Club’s vision became a reality in 1973, when the Center first opened its doors to educate people of all ages about Florida’s fragile environment. The center enjoys a cooperative agreement and over thirty years in partnership with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) which allows it to conduct education and awareness programs on site, while the service provides and maintains the facility. The Jupiter Island Garden Club continues to sponsor the Nature Center and remains one of its major funding sources.
The Nature Center offers both on and off-site native wildlife presentations and field experiences to local natural areas. Staff includes an office administrator and three professional interpretive naturalists and instructors. Nature trails on-site allow for hikes on estuaries, barrier islands and the sand pine scrub. A highly popular event is the sea turtle walk program, held on warm, summer nights from the end of May through mid July. The center is one of only a few organizations in the state specially permitted by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to conduct these nighttime walks. Reservations are required and the Center begins taking them as early as April 1 each year.
Other events held throughout the year include weekend special events, seasonal lecture series, summer nature camp for students ages 6 to 12 and even an occasional overseas eco-tour. School programs are also very popular in the tri-county area and our newsletter, Mangrove News is published quarterly. Volunteers (14 and up) are also utilized for a variety of projects.
After losing an entire building to the hurricanes of 2004, the Center finally moved into our beautiful new building during the summer of 2007. It houses offices for both the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and Nature Center staff, nature-themed gift shop and exhibits. The Education Center has reverted back to a classroom, seating nearly 100 persons. Both buildings are fully accessible. A Seminole Indian chickee is used for small group activities.
A highly successful program sponsored by the Hobe Sound Nature Center occurs during the summer months. Our summer environmental camp for students ages 6 to 12 has been held every summer since 1973. Its excellent reputation has drawn students from three counties and even youngsters visiting relatives in the area. Field trips, arts and crafts, interpretive programs, hands-on experiences and other activities enable the participants to enjoy their summer while learning about Florida’s wildlife and what they can do to protect it.
Another summertime program begun in 1982 is nighttime interpretive “sea turtle walks,” held from late May to mid July. These walks begin with a presentation in the Center’s classroom and end with a visit to the Hobe Sound Public Beach to witness the egg-laying of the threatened loggerhead sea turtle. A special permit is issued to the Nature Center by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection in order to provide people with this unique opportunity to observe this natural phenomenon. The 20 to 22 walks now offered each summer are always booked way in advance and demand for these programs can never be satisfied.
The Hobe Sound Nature Center, Inc. wishes to remain in the forefront of enviromental education. Its programs have taught, trained, and influenced an entire generation of environmentally sensitive people. If we wish to continue enjoying our fragile Hobe Sound environment, we must continue to support the growth of the Hobe Sound Nature Center, Inc.
In 1990, the Hobe Sound Nature Center Foundation, Inc. was established. This tax exempt foundation was created for the sole purpose of supplementing the monies available for the Nature Center itself.