Athens Conservancy Fund
The Athens Conservancy is a nonprofit land trust located in Athens, Ohio. The general concern of the Athens Conservancy is the quality of land stewardship. Since we owe the natural world the great debt of life itself, we work to ensure the natural world remains our partner in life. Specifically, we help establish good land management through property acquisition, conservation easements and other efforts.
The Athens Conservancy has several programs:
The Athens Conservancy directly acquires land to create preserves and recreational space, and also helps other organizations do the same. They have provided financial contributions to assist the City of Athens, Ohio Division of Wildlife and Highlands Sanctuary to acquire key pieces of land. The Conservancy was instrumental in creating the City of Athens Riddle State Nature Preserve, one of the most important tracts of old-growth forest in the state of Ohio. The Athens Conservancy currently holds two preserves of their own, the 65-acre Bluebell Preserve, along the Hockhocking-Adena Bikeway west of the Plains, and the 75-acre Blair Preserve adjoining Strouds Run State Park. They are about to establish a third preserve in The Plains. It takes large amounts of money to do this work, and even using the Clean Ohio Conservation Fund, which funds 75% of the purchase price of land in a competitive granting process, the Conservancy still must raise the additional 25%.
The Conservancy is the holder of conservation easements to ensure land owned by private parties will remain intact in important ways in the future, no matter who owns it. They currently have two easements covering almost 450 acres of land and are working on several others. As part of this program, the Conservancy must create an endowment fund to support future monitoring of these lands, and to legally defend against any efforts to violate the easements. Fulfilling these responsibilities can be quite expensive.
Athens Conservancy GIS Resource Center
The Conservancy maintains and operates a GIS resource center with computerized mapping resources to support their own land management and to assist other organizations and private individuals in their efforts. They have performed extensive mapping, and the resulting maps and GIS map files are available to the public on the Internet at no cost. One of their projects is to create a comprehensive statewide GAP (Gap Assessment Program)-type land stewardship database, which currently does not exist for the state of Ohio. These resources may be viewed through the Conservancy’s website.
Not only does the Conservancy protect land through ownership and overall management, but also by on-the-ground work! They participate in a forest stewardship network to control invasive exotic plants, which are doing great harm to our local ecosystems. This network includes the Athens Forest Stewardship Club, Rural Action, the Appalachian Ohio Group of the Sierra Club, Athens Conservancy, Athens Trails, and Friends of Strouds Run State Park. The Conservancy especially focuses on removing garlic mustard, a serious weed in the spring season. They are currently seeking funds to hire a crew to do more intensive, long-term and larger-scale invasive-plant control, concentrating on their preserve lands and the Strouds Run State Park area, as well as some other areas.
Public Information and Outings
The Athens Conservancy tries to educate and inform the public about important issues relating to land stewardship. They maintain an informational website, have provided articles for local newspapers, and have exhibited at a variety of events. The Conservancy also sponsors regular public hikes, such as their annual Groundhog Hike, held on the first Sunday in February. They can also provide speakers for other organizations.
Recreational Trail Support
The Athens Conservancy works with other organizations, such as Athens Trails and Friends of Strouds Run State Park, to support the creation and maintenance of recreational muscle-powered trails (this includes trails for hikers, bicyclists, horseback riders, and kayakers/canoeists). In part, the Conservancy seeks to provide right-of-way for trail access when needed, and have acted as a fiscal agent for some organizations receiving grants for trail improvements. They are also developing a primitive backpacking campsite on their Blair Preserve, which, to the best of available knowledge, will be the only designated primitive backpacking campsite in Athens County. The Conservancy is also working with the Hocking River Commission to create one or more river access areas for the Hocking River Water Trail.
The Conservancy is an important organization for our area, and needs your financial assistance in order to carry out their mission. Please help by making a donation to the Athens Conservancy Fund at the Foundation for Appalachian Ohio!
Make an online donation through Network for Good to the Foundation for Appalachian Ohio, designating the Athens Conservancy as the fund designation or call the Foundation at 740.753.1111 for additional giving options.