CEED’s history is one of like-minded people and organizations coming together to create a new kind of collaborative nature center on Long Island that inspires nature connection in people of all ages. Here is a timeline of the many milestones and steps taken thus far as CEED develops and grows into a vibrant community resource.
September 1, 2013
Wildlife biologist, naturalist and outdoor educator “Ranger Eric” Powers had been teaching in the field of environmental education for more than 25 years, helping people form a love and understanding of the natural world. Drawing from many years of work at nature centers around the world, Eric developed a vision of a more collaborative nature center model that brings environmental artists and educators together under one entity to connect people with nature through the power of education, experience and the circle of arts. He began fulfilling this vision with the Art & Nature Festival, a multi-disciplined program with a variety of educational stations that he conducted in schools through his mobile nature education business, Your Connection to Nature (YC2N). A network of artists and educators formed around the Art & Nature Festival, and became known as the Art & Nature Group (ANG). This included Rebecca Muellers, a wilderness skills instructor who first connected with Eric during a 2013 Master Naturalist class. The two quickly bonded over a shared passion for Eric’s collaborative model and vision, and together they became the driving force behind making it a reality.
Looking For A Home
January 1, 2014
As the nature center vision perculated within the group, it became apparent that ANG’s efforts would lead to more than just collaborative nature education. A community of like-minded people was forming, and that community would need a home. Eric realized that mobile programming at schools, libraries, etc. would not be enough to realize the full potential of ANG’s vision. Finding a physical site at which to conduct programs and serve as a central touch point to the community was essential. So the search began for a program site and home base for the Art & Nature Group.
Discovering The Washington Lodge
January 1, 2015
After looking at several potential sites, Eric and Rebecca identified the Washington Lodge estate in Brookhaven, NY as the most conducive to ANG’s vision and needs. Jointly owned as open space parkland by local nonprofit Post-Morrow Foundation, Town of Brookhaven and Suffolk County, the site included a 7,300 square foot historic house that was in disrepair from years of neglect. The property, and the location overall, offered many key elements including a large structure to support operations, programs and events, a diversity of natural habitats, an easily accessible location, and close proximity to other natural areas, educational resources and farms, including the County-owned 50+ acre Dennis Puleston Nature Preserve across the street. In the fall of 2014, Eric & Rebecca launched their effort to secure access and use of the Washington Lodge estate. In January 2015, proposals and negotiations for the property began with Post Morrow Foundation.
Art & Nature Group, Inc: The Corporation
May 2, 2015
Eric hired an accountant and officially incorporated the Art & Nature Group, Inc. From early on, it had been the group’s intention for ANG to be a not-for-profit organization. Non-profit was the right fit for the collaborative, community-minded vision of the group. So the process began to file for non-profit status with the IRS.
ANG Receives Non-Profit Status
July 3, 2015
The IRS approved Art & Nature Group, Inc as a 501 (c) (3) organization, designating ANG as an official charity that can accept tax-deductible donations. From that point forward, the group began meeting routinely as ANG’s first informal Board of Directors, with co-founders Eric Powers and Rebecca Muellers at the helm.
The Inception of CEED
September 4, 2015
Discussions about the Washington Lodge estate progressed to include the Town of Brookhaven and Suffolk County, and the possibilities of a nature center at the historic site became stronger. It became apparent that the center needed a name to encapsulate the vision of ANG. After much discussion, the group developed the name Center for Environmental Education & Discovery or CEED. Eventually, in October 2016, the name became the official New York State assumed name or DBA for ANG.
CEED Launched Into Community
May 6, 2016
The Art & Nature Group, now operating under the name CEED, held a wine and cheese event at the barn of Jennifer Puleston Clement & Pete Clement in the hamlet of Brookhaven. The event was free and open to the public, and served to introduce CEED to the community with its new name, logo and vision. The first donations were accepted and the organization’s website, artnaturegroup.org, was launched. Approximately 75 people attended, and Rebecca and Eric presented the organization’s vision to transform the Washington Lodge estate into the Center for Environmental Education & Discovery. Brookhaven Town Supervisor Edward Romaine attended the event and spoke publically in support of CEED’s vision. One month later, Eric and Rebecca met with Supervisor Romaine and the process to draft a license agreement between the Town and ANG for the Washington Lodge was initiated.
Approved To Be A Nature Center
August 5, 2016
The Brookhaven Town Council unanimously passed a Town resolution to enter a license agreement with the Art & Nature Group, Inc to operate a nature center and offer environmental education programs at the Washington Lodge. CEED will have a home!
First Annual Winter Solstice Event
December 17, 2016
CEED hosts its first event at the Washington Lodge property. The Winter Solstice Celebration featured a traditional antler dance and the decorating of a Solstice tree with decorations that were edible to wildlife.
First Annual Spring Equinox Festival
March 18, 2017
CEED’s first Spring Equinox FESTIVAL featured seasonal crafts and an earth science presentation explaining nature’s changing of the season known as the Vernal Equinox.
License Agreement Executed
May 12, 2017
After many months of negotiations, the Town of Brookhaven and the Art & Nature Group, Inc dba CEED signed a 10-year renewable agreement for CEED to renovate the Washington Lodge into a new community resource that offers environmental education and a variety of nature and conservation activities for residents of all ages. Many volunteers, friends and partners of CEED came together for a celebration dinner at Café Castello’s in Bellport to mark the momentous occasion.
Electricity Restored and Window Boards Removed
May 25, 2017
During many years that the Washington Lodge was vacant, vandals stripped wiring and piping, leaving mechanical systems in ruins. The Town of Brookhaven boarded up the building to prevent additional vandalism. CEED’s occupancy marked the beginning of the Lodge’s revitalization, which was a welcome change for the community. First steps were to restore electricity and remove many of the window boards.
First Volunteer Recruitment Meetings
May 27, 2017
CEED’s operations start to take shape with volunteer recruitment. Many wonderful people give tirelessly their time, energy and talent to help fulfill CEED’s mission.
Passing of the Keys
June 16, 2017
At a ceremonial press conference on the steps of the Washington Lodge, Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine officially handed a symbolic key to the historic building over to CEED co-founders Eric Powers and Rebecca Muellers. Attendees included Brookhaven Councilman Mike Loguercio, Suffolk County Legislator Kate Browning’s Chief of Staff Josh Slaughter, a representative from New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo’s office, representatives of local organizations including the Brookhaven Village Association, along with several members of CEED’s Advisory Board and a crowd of enthusiastic volunteers, supporters and members of the press.
First Annual Summer Solstice Festival
June 24, 2017
CEED’s first Summer Solstice Festival featured a musical program that included Peruvian flotist, Sicanni, and Latin/World guitarist Arrizza, plus Native American storyteller and artist David Martine. Attendance is doubled from previous events, demonstrating that the good news of CEED has begun to spread.
June 30, 2017
Wildlife biologist and CEED co-founder, Ranger Eric Powers, lead a Going Batty Seminar & Workshop at the Bellport Village Community Center. The event was sponsored by the Bellport Village Program Fund. Over 75 people attended and 30 bat boxes were built and taken home by participants.
Open House at The Washington Lodge
July 8, 2017
CEED holds the first of many open houses and building tours to help visitors, volunteers and donors experience the vision of the new nature center.
Water Returns To The Lodge
August 11, 2017
Pipes from the Washington Lodge’s water main had been stolen by vandals. Thanks to the generous help and expertise from volunteers, new plumbing equipment was installed, allowing water to flow to the house for the first time in seven years.
Program Council Begins Its Magic
August 26, 2017
A dedicated group of volunteers join to form the Program Council, a volunteer committee responsible for planning and implementing CEED’s increasingly popular public festivals and events. Many of the volunteers are founding members of CEED.
Community Outreach Ramps Up
August 30, 2017
CEED is a featured for the first time at various local organizational meetings and events including the Brookhaven Village Association’s Annual Meeting, South Bay Art Association’s Artist on the Lane, Eastern Long Island Audubon Society and at Pine Barren’s Discovery Day at Wertheim National Wildlife Refuge.
Repairs Begin To Come Together
September 15, 2017
Volunteers dig in to important repairs at the Washington Lodge. Key work completed included the first operational bathroom and utility sink, extensive roof and floor repairs and exterior painting of the outdoor shed, replacement of the cellar door, repairs to buckled flooring inside the Lodge and repairs and power washing of the back deck.
CEED Featured on TV
September 23, 2017
Executive Director Rebecca Muellers and Ranger Eric Powers are interviewed as co-founders of CEED on the Long Island Pine Barrens Society’s TV show, which aired throughout Long Island during the month of September.
First Autumnal Equinox Festival
September 23, 2017
CEED’s seasonal festivals were rapidly becoming community favorites. The first Fall Equinox Celebration featured vendor booths, the Brookhaven Fire Department’s Brush Truck, guitarist Ben Myers and art & music improv by Robyn Bellospirito and Jimi Durso. Plus attendees enjoyed the Cravin’ It food truck, pony & hay rides and the chance to win great raffle baskets.
First Grant Awards
October 20, 2017
CEED received a grant from SalesForce’s Power of Us program. The grant provided ten non-profit Customer Relationship Management licenses geared for non-profit database management. This provided another boost to CEED’s operational infrastructure. CEED is awarded its first government grant: $8,000 from Suffolk County’s Office of Cultural Affairs to support CEED’s 2018 Solstice and Equinox festivals. Many thanks to the office of Suffolk County Legislator Kate Browning for helping make the grant happen.
Our First Fundraising and “Friend”raising Event
November 18, 2017
CEED held a well-attended House Tour and Wine Tasting event, with many thanks to our friends and supporters at Café Castello and Celadon Home of Bellport, and One Hope Foundation.
Festivals Come Full Circle
December 23, 2017
CEED hosts its second Winter Solstice Celebration at the Washington Lodge. Attendance numbers continue to double from the prior year’s event. The quarterly festivals become established as annual events.
Knowles Architecture Joins The Team
January 5, 2018
CEED announced an agreement with the very talented local architect, Mary Knowles, to map out plans to transform the Washington Lodge into a thriving community nature center. Much of Mary’s professional time will be donated. Through this generosity of time and talent, the organization can finally begin to dig deeper into details of the renovations needed for the building.
Our First Floor Has Heat
February 9, 2018
CEED’s dedicated volunteers restored heat to half of the 1st floor, enabling the building to be used for tours and volunteer activities during the winter months.
New Board of Directors
April 13, 2018
CEED develops its first Bylaws and established a new working Board of Directors. This marks a new phase in CEED’s growth as an organization. The Board soon forms subcommittees to help implement new opportunities.
CEED Grounds Expand
May 19, 2018
CEED enters a Special Use Agreement with Suffolk County to use 51 acres of woods and marshland directly adjacent to the Washington Lodge on the south side of South Country Road. The plan is to use the preserved land for nature programming and to create trails that improve public access. This brings the total acreage under CEED stewardship to just over 60 acres.
First Annual Benefit Luncheon
May 26, 2018
This first-time fundraiser attracted nearly 70 attendees and raised over $6,500 through a silent auction, raffles, sponsors and tickets to a wonderful lunch and history presentation about the Lodge by members of the Fireplace History Club. The event was held at Christ Episcopal Church in Bellport.
Summer Solstice Festival Turns Native American Pow-Wow
June 23, 2018
This increasingly popular event transformed into a small version of a Native American pow-wow, featuring several members of Long Island’s Shinnecock Nation demonstrating and engaging the public in traditional drumming, singing, dancing, open fire cooking and story telling. Plus vendors sold traditional jewelry and decorative pieces from the both the Shinnecock and Taino traditions.
CEED Fall Equinox Festival Adds Bike-A-Thon
September 22, 2018
A bike-a-thon fundraiser was added to the CEED Fall Equinox Festival—deemed the Bikequinox–featuring a fun leisurely scavenger hunt-themed ride through Brookhaven and Bellport to help raise money for CEED.
First On-Site Nature Program For Children: Forest School!
October 15, 2018
The Aishling Forest School, CEED’S first partner organization, offered the first forest school program for children ages 4-9 on the grounds of CEED. Children were immersed in child-led learning through outdoor play and exploration. The following spring, the program expanded to include sessions for children 0-3 and their caregivers.
Suffolk County Grant Renewed
October 26, 2018
Suffolk County’s Office of Cultural Affairs renews its grant to CEED to support our public festivals – a sign of CEED’s growth and stability.
First On-Site Nature Program for Adults: Forest Therapy
March 9, 2019
Monthy forest bathing hikes began at the property, led by Long Island’s first certified forest therapist from Long Island Forest Walks.
Green Lawn Conservation Project
April 15, 2019
CEED offered eco-friendly lawn care products and non-GMO birdseed in exchange for donations as part of a collaborative effort to reduce the nitrogen run off from conventional fertilizers that destroys the ecosystem in the Bay. The project expanded on a first collaboration to raise public awareness with the Friends of Bellport Bay (FOB) in 2018.
First Room Sponsor
May 11, 2019
The Gocs Family generously sponsored a room in CEEDs future Retreat Center, kicking off the capital campaign to revitalize the Washington Lodge. We demonstrated our gratitude with an award presented at CEED’s Second Annual Benefit Luncheon.
CEED’s Site Director Moves Into Lodge
May 17, 2019
After a tremendous collaborative effort by volunteers to restore necessary heat, plumbing and electrical systems, plus fire safety measures and a working kitchen, the caretaker living space in the Lodge was completed and CEED’s Site Director moved in. This marked the first time in nearly 10 years that the Lodge has a resident, improving security at the property and enabling more effective operations overall.
First Nature Workshop Series: Friendly Foragers
June 8, 2019
CEED ran a monthly workshop focused on learning to find and use edible and medicinal plants in the forest and fields of Brookhaven, such as sassafras, black cherry bark, wintergreen and catbriar. The 4-part series ran June through September, ending in a family-friendly event that focused on tie-dying and plant-based water colors.
Solstice Farm Brunch with Isabella Rossellini
June 22, 2019
In conjunction with the mini Native American pow-wow once again happening at CEED’s Summer Solstice Festival, Isabella Rossellini hosted a solstice-themed fundraising brunch to benefit CEED at her Brookhaven farm, which is adjacent to the Lodge property. Ms. Rossellini collaborated with Shinnecock Cultural Performers to provide guests an intimate musical experience. Plus, brunch guests were treated to a private farm tour led by Ms. Rossellini.
Summer Nature Experience: First Summer Program For Kids
July 15, 2019
CEED offered two weeks of nature immersion for kids in grades 2-6, including a week themed Wonders of Wildlife and a week about Exploring Ecology. Half and full day options were available, and the program was held at Post Morrow Foundation in Brookhaven.
CEED Hires Its First Paid Staff
August 16, 2019
As an all-volunteer organization, it was a major milestone to expand operations to include paid staff. The new staff include a full time Program & Site Director and a part-time Program Administrator, both of whom bring with them vast knowledge and experience aimed at expanding CEEDs programming and operations.
CEED Programs Launch Into Schools and Community
September 13, 2019
CEED started offering an array of environmental education programs to school districts and community organizations such as scout troops, libraries and museums. Programming includes live animal presentations, workshops and field trips customized to meet the needs of any age or size group. This launch represents a major advancement of CEED’s mission to provide nature connection through education and experience.