Fate of Glen Helen Nature Preserve under discussion

The ownership of Glen Helen Nature Preserve in Yellow Springs is under discussion as COVID-19 pandemic has impacted Antioch College’s ability to retain the land.

Antioch College has decided the programs within the Glen, including trail access, will remain closed and there are no plans to reopen in the near future, said Nick Boutis, executive director of the Glen Helen Ecology Institute. The college is working with the Glen Helen Association to reach an agreement that could reopen the Glen.

Located immediately east of downtown Yellow Springs, the Glen has been closed to visitors due to COVID-19, including its trails and the Glen Helen Raptor Center.

“Glen was closed because of the pandemic for social distancing reasons,” Reedy said. “As a consequence of everything going on, all program revenue that would have been coming in is not available. That is essential for offsetting staff costs.”

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“For over a year, Antioch College has been quietly exploring with the board of the Glen Helen Association a new structure under which to operate this treasured regional resource,” read a statement on the college’s website. “The GHA is a separate nonprofit organization with which the College shares the common goal of supporting and protecting Glen Helen and access to it.”

The preserve has been maintained and operated by the college since 1929 after it was gifted by alumnus Hugh Taylor Birch. It was permanently protected by a land trust restriction enacted in 2015, so the land can’t be developed, said Christine Reedy, assistant director of communications at Antioch.

“It’s extraordinarily hard because a group of people that work for the Glen that really believe in their work and know the difference they make in people’s lives is substantial,” Boutis said. “It’s disheartening to worry we won’t be able to resume and that what we’ve worked for might evaporate.”

Yellow Springs Police Department is helping patrol the preserve while it remains closed and entrances are taped off.

“We’re in exceedingly difficult times for all organizations and that’s been reflected in the tough decisions that we’re making daily,” Reedy said. “We understand the Glen has a special place in lots of people’s lives. It’s a treasure for the Village, it’s a treasure for the college too.”

As the fate of the preserve remains uncertain, Boutis said the birds at the Glen Helen Raptor Center are safe and being looked after.

“It’s basically like taking a robust organization that’s doing a lot for the county on environmental learning and kind of turning it down to a barely flickering pilot light,” Boutis said. “It’s operating on a shell level.”

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