To raise public awareness of the value of our natural and cultural resources by providing environmental education, recreation, research, and management of conservation lands.
The Charlotte Harbor Environmental Center “CHEC,” a private, non-profit 501(c)(3) corporation, founded in 1987, has been providing environmental education, recreation, environmental research, and conservation lands management services to the citizens and visitors of the greater Charlotte Harbor area. Find out how you can get involved with CHEC and our programs.
In 1983, Charles E. Caniff envisioned a nature center in Charlotte County, Florida; where children and adults could come to experience the real Florida as it was hundreds of years before Florida’s radical population explosion.
Mr. Caniff, an active retiree, was then the president of the Peace River Audubon Society. He believed that Charlotte County was lacking something; a place for the public to commune with nature, a resource for teachers (or the general public) to seek out environmental education, a local organization that would oversee preservation land management from an unbiased perspective, and a research facility that would also operate impartially. This niche needed to be filled and he saw to it that the seeds were planted.
Through hard work and dedication, Charles Caniff convinced government officials that it was important to preserve environmental history and create educational environmental programs in this southwest Florida community; thus, the Charlotte Harbor Environmental Center was opened in 1987.
The Charlotte Harbor Environmental Center, Inc. is the result of state, county and city officials working with the private sector to preserve a piece of paradise. This union and cooperation continues today through CHEC's Corporate Members. Each Corporate Member contributes either in monetary or in-kind services to operation of the Center. Each Member also has a representative sit on the Center’s Board of Directors.
Now, thanks to its spirited originator, and our founding members; the Charlotte County government, the City of Punta Gorda, the Charlotte County Public Schools and the Peace River Audubon Society, and CHEC's first Chief Operating Officer, Mr. Al Cheatham and his dedicated staff, the Charlotte Harbor Environmental Center, Inc. is a valuable asset to the Charlotte Harbor area and beyond.
The first program to be offered through CHEC was the 4th grade program, taking 4th grade students from Charlotte County School System on an educational hike and boat tour of the area. This program continues today, and is possible through the support of the Charlotte County Board of Education, and a Southwest Florida Water Management District grant.
Today, the Center provides over 20 different educational programs, manages 8 environmentally sensitive lands and provides a total of over 8 miles of hiking trail and other recreational opportunities to the community.