Glen Helen Association to apply for state funding to make improvements to nature preserve

The Glen Helen Association is making an application to the Ohio Public Works Commission for Clean Ohio Conservation grant funds to make improvements to Glen Helen Nature Preserve.

Greene County commissioners approved a resolution of support for the project to be included in the project application.

Since buying Glen Helen from Antioch College in 2020, the Glen Helen Association has started a campaign to restart programs and make improvements to the nature preserve that would make it better for public access, said Glen Helen Association Executive Director Nick Boutis. Boutis said to complete all of these projects, the association needs about $3.5 million.

“This will take a small but meaningful bite out of the $3.5 million that we need to raise,” Boutis said. “But also, I think most of those funds are going to come from members of the community. Glen Helen is a treasure for the entire region, and we are working hard to see that it is preserved and gets the attention and support that it needs to be able to continue to serve our community.”

Some of the planned improvements include demolishing the old Antioch College power plant, improving the existing parking lot, creating a new parking lot, adding signage and making repairs to bridges and boardwalks.

The power plant has not been operational since 2007. It was built in the 1930s for Antioch College use. The powerplant sits on a spring-fed wetland and is a potential hazard to visitors to Glen Helen, Boutis said.

The Glen Helen Association will evaluate the 15-mile trail system of the Glen and look for places that could use bridges or boardwalks to protect springs, to keep people from widening trails and to make it easier for people with limited mobility to visit the preserve. Boutis said the group also plans to make a parking area off of State Route 343 that is more accessible for people with limited mobility to see the springs.

“All of the improvements that we’re entertaining with this initial campaign are how do we take care of the urgent needs, things that are related to public safety and code compliance, and the health of the preserve, so that we’re able to continue to welcome the public and continue to provide life-shaping environmental learning here,” Boutis said.

Boutis said the Glen Helen Association will apply for 75% of whatever they determine the project will cost. The remaining quarter of funding will come from the Glen Helen Association or donations.

The application is due May 14. Boutis said he does not yet know how much funding the Glen Helen Association will apply for.

Boutis said the group has used Clean Ohio funds in the past to acquire nearby land, but hasn’t used them for the purpose of making the preserve more accessible.

“Glen Helen is the region’s largest and most visited private nature preserve,” Boutis said. “It’s all about how do we take care of this beloved regional asset to see that the health of the Glen is good and it is safe for people to visit.”

Glen Helen gets about 125,000 visitors a year from the Dayton and Springfield areas and beyond, the association said. There is no levy to support the nature preserve, so it is run entirely off of individual contributions, Boutis said.

The Glen was gifted to Antioch College by alumnus Hugh Taylor Birch in 1929 as a memorial to his daughter Helen Birch Bartlett. Since that time, the Glen has served as an environmental research site that Antioch College made available to the public for programming and recreational use.

Glen Helen encompasses about 1,000 acres.

Boutis said the association is working to start up programming again. The Glen will have summer eco-camps for kids ages 5 and up starting in June, Boutis said.

“It feels good to know that during a pandemic when there’s so many things that people can’t do as easily, that we’re here for people,” Boutis said.

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