Since 1971, Tree Hill Nature Center has promoted environmental stewardship to the community through educational programs and access to natural areas.

"Tree Hill Nature Center is an urban wilderness preserve comprising 50 acres of hilltop and wetland areas, consisting of southern mixed hardwood forest, mixed hardwood swamp and freshwater stream. The Tree Hill Nature Center property was acquired for the purpose of preserving  environmentally sensitive flora and fauna, expanding environmental education programs, facilitating greater environmental awareness and protecting the property from encroaching development. This park offers an indoor nature center, interactive exhibits, learning laboratory, wildflower gardens, meeting room, nature trails and wildlife viewing areas. The original 40 acre site was expanded by 10 acres by an FCT grant in 1998, and has been developed to include nature trails, outdoor classrooms, an amphitheatre and additional parking." (Reference: coj.net)

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Detailed History

June 1970

Espie Patrinely, our founder, sees sign that Tree Hill is up for sale while riding at Lone Star Stables.

July 1970

Arlington civic and church groups unite to purchase 21.5 acres on Lone Star Rd. Audubon Society members, Dr. Ted Allen, Dr. Grace Hardy, Gene Nixon and Thomas N. Manning inspect property. St. Andrews, the Unitarian Congregational, Arlington United Methodist Churches, Audubon Society, and Arlington Junior Woman’s Club all endorse the project. Dr. Ted Allen, Prof. of Biology at Jacksonville University and member of the Audubon Society speaks at St. Andrews Church discussing the development of a nature park. Concerned for the preservation of a wilderness area Arlington citizens form the Preservation Association for Tree Hill (PATH).

March 1971

Epsie Patrinely and Dr. Grace Hardy, co-chairmen for PATH announce $10,000 needed by April 1 to pick up a one year option for purchase of Tree Hill.

1971 to present

City of Jacksonville awards Tree Hill operation’s funding for salaries, property insurance, repairs, maintenance, and capital improvements.

September 1973

4.5 acres donated to Tree Hill by Robert L. Cury, Mr. and Mrs. A. Walter Hirshberg and Mr. and Mrs. Martin Stein.

March 1973

Jacksonville Area Planning Board endorsed Tree Hill as an area for regional impact and asked that the site be purchased by the State for preservation.

April 1974

Gov. Reubin Askew views Tree Hill property by helicopter while on tour of endangered lands. The Duval County School Board voted to support the acquisition of Tree Hill.

1974 to present

Duval County School Board contracted with Tree Hill for elementary school instruction, teacher training, and science curriculum materials development. 

August 1974

Duval County School Board begins teacher workshops and student activities for fourth and sixth grades.

February 1974

Dr. Grace Hardy awarded “Conservationist of the Year” by the Florida Audubon Society.

June 1975

PATH hired Ann Merrian as the first director of Tree Hill.

November 1979

The Jacksonville - Duval County Agricultural Council presented the Lee and Mimi Adams Environmental Award to PATH. Elwood Geiger was also presented the award for his commitment to environmental problems.

November 1979

Dr. Ted Allen was honored for his participation in the founding of PATH and the Theodore Roosevelt Preserve with the Lee and Mimi Adams Environmental Award.

February 1980

PATH selected Jacksonville architect Ted Pappas to design its energy demonstration center.

November 1981

Dr. Grace Hardy was presented the Lee and Mimi Adams Environmental Award..

June 1985

PATH holds open house and dedication of the Tree Hill Environmental Center.

1985 to present

JEA presented Tree Hill funding for energy instruction, teacher in-service training, materials distribution, and conservation education.

May 1986

Tree Hill announced six weeks of summer day camps beginning June 16. The camps will cover various natural science topics.

March 1990

Martin E. Stein Estate deeds 160 acre tract of land to Tree Hill, valued at $715,000.


Tree Hill donates 10 acres of uplands at Westside property to CoJ for McGirts Creek Park, Contract to serve ALL  Duval County Public School 3rd grade classes in environmental education programs, Pyramid administration building refurbishment completed by Professional Restoration with CoJ and state funding, JEA and  Williams Foundation contribute to “Green” facility at Lone Star Stables property


Pond improvements donated. 30th year anniversary celebration ends. Special monthly events culminating with anniversary community event. 


Phase I Improvements begun at LSS: Debris removal, design fees, environmental survey and fencing. Website launched: www.treehill.org.


New boardwalks are built on Red Bay Branch and Howland Creek nature trails. Butterfly Festival becomes annual signature event.


Remaining Westside property on Morse Avenue donated to CoJ for Tillie Fowler Park. FRDAP grant for improvements on LSS property: open ampthitheater, learning stations, trails, parking and landscaping. JEA expands energy programming and exhibits


PATH to the Future memorial brick program begun. Rainforest exhibit fabricated; murals donated by Dan Heslep and Tom Goldsworthy. JAXPORT donates River in Harmony mural. 


Comcast Cable funds 3-year grant for Saturday programming. Improvements at LSS property begun: designs for restrooms, amphitheater roof, storage and site upgrades. Pleistocene Epoch showcase exhibits and murals constructed.


Flight of Fancy Butterfly House erected. Amphitheater roof and new facilities completed


Amphitheater is named Joseph A. Strasser Amphitheater to honor long-time donor Mr. Strasser. Improvements to the facility completed: stage, lighting, signage, safety rails, seating.


Historic Journey mural painted by Lisa Williams donated by Jacqueline Loomis in memory of Joanne Olson. Animal Encounter programs offered to 5000+ summer campers. Exhibits refurbished to add new live displays: owl, gopher tortoises, opossums, snakes, fish and goats.Creative Coalition forms and has first art exhibition at Main Library; Joanelle Mulrain,  Artist in Residence and Allison Watson, Founders. Rebranding and new website are launched.


Year-long celebration of Tree Hill’s 40th Anniversary. Executive Director Lucille Cortese retires after more than 20 years of service to Tree Hill.


10th Annual Butterfly Festival welcomes record number of visitors. Tree Hill partners with JEA to present "Energy Detective!" program on sustainable energy.


Tree Hill begins work on energy efficiency upgrades to the Museum / Administrative building.

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