By Daniel Barringer, Preserve Manager
The first parcels of Crow’s Nest Preserve were donated to Natural Lands Trust in 1991, so this year we’re celebrating our silver anniversary, twenty-five years of careful land stewardship, renovation of historic structures, and connecting people with nature here.
In many ways, the land looks the same. The farm fields are still being farmed, the hedgerows and woods are still there, though the trees are taller and have fewer invasive vines dragging on them. One of the purposes of protecting the property from development is to keep it looking the same: still providing natural habitat, hosting functional plant and animal communities, and protecting the water quality of the local streams. One of the challenges of land stewardship is that if we are doing our job well, it isn’t apparent to the casual observer that we are doing anything.
However, the trails are better than they were a quarter-century ago. New and older, well-maintained boardwalks span muddy spots. New plantings of native species have been added here and there. The meadows are mowed annually, hazard trees removed, bluebird boxes installed and monitored, and signs, brochures, and now even a mobile app help guide visitors around the preserve.
Kids grow up and some of them are now helping run our education programs, now more extensive than ever.
Where the most dramatic differences can be seen on the preserve is in the buildings, which—through generous support from donors—have undergone renovation and adaptive reuse to support our mission.
Above, before-and-after photos of the tenant house at the preserve, and below, the same for the Houck house. Both provide housing for staff.
Here are Steve Holmburg and Bob Johnson in the late 1990’s working on the visitor center barn:
Both are very much still here but unlikely to stand still for a photo, so instead I include below a photo of the same location taken today.
The barn which is our visitor center has undergone first stabilization and then transformation, from this…
Similarly, the Jacob barn was restored and made into a maintenance shop and storage for the preserve:
And, not the least—the Jacob house which provides housing for the preserve manager and family, as well as an apartment for each year’s intern:
Above, before. Below, after. The photos don’t convey how much work went into these projects!
Among future projects are renovations at the Hartung farmstead near the middle of the preserve (below). The same level of expertise and care will be applied here.
As I mentioned above, our kids’ programs have been around long enough that many of the kids have grown up and some now help with the programs. Fortunately, the staff and volunteers haven’t aged a bit in that time…
How do we sum up 25 years in one weblog post? I can’t. I can say that we have been fortunate to be surrounded by the very best of staff, volunteers, visitors, and supporters during that time.
We’re excited about what the next quarter century will look like at Crow’s Nest Preserve! The best part is that you can come out and enjoy our seven miles of hiking trails, natural habitats, and historic landscapes today!