A fundraising effort is underway to preserve the future of what many consider the heart of Yellow Springs.
In April, the Antioch College Board of Trustees announced it did not plan to reopen Glen Helen Nature Preserve after it was closed to visitors due to COVID-19, including its trails and the Glen Helen Raptor Center. The college is working with the Glen Helen Association to reach an agreement that could reopen the Glen.
“I think the challenge with this is we have so many competing needs in our community at the very moment,” said Jeannamarie Cox, executive director of the Yellow Springs Community Foundation. “We’re 3,500 strong and we have individuals who have food insecurity, need rent relief, we have downtown businesses that are struggling to get back open and catch up after several months out.”
The Save the Glen Fund has been established and housed with the Yellow Springs Community Foundation by a donor who wished to remain anonymous, to benefit the Glen Helen Association and its hopes to preserve the future of the Glen.
“Now we have what many feel is the real heart of Yellow Springs, Glen Helen, is now in very fragile and uneasy territory,” Cox said. “For the community, it’s very emotional and challenging to figure out.”
Negotiations around the sale between the college and the GHA have remained closed to the public. A deal must be reached by a deadline of June 30, the end of the college’s fiscal year, or the Glen and its programs could be shuddered indefinitely.
Once closed, it is possible negotiations could open back up in the future, however, Cox said it would be very hard to reopen the deal.
“The community has been asked to do a lot and there are amazingly stepping up … Yet, there’s got to be an end of the pot,” Cox said. “It’s a really tough add on at this point in time. Had we had a couple years to get ready for the sale of the Glen, I think the community would have been in a better position to support — it’s been a very last minute situation.”
The amount raised by the fund has been requested to remain private by the donor, Cox said.
The Community Foundation has received lots of calls, emails and letters from concerned residents, frequent Glen visitors and even out-of-state people who want to know how they can help.
“People are hopeful, but they’re nervous,” Cox said. “We’ve had some tragedy there (Glen Helen Nature Preserve), that it just adds to the angst.”
The funds held by the foundation will go 100% toward the benefit of the Glen’s future, with 80% towards a purchase and 20% to the GHA for future operations of the nature preserve, according to the fund’s website. If there is no purchase by the deadline, funds will still go to the association.
If the association no longer exists, Cox said the funds would be distributed by the Community Foundation to an effort that most closely resembles the work of the association.
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.
Though that does takes away some community worry surrounding the future of the Glen, a no sale would ultimately mean the closing of a regional treasure.
“The heart of our community you could easily say is our vibrant downtown and our (downtown) business people, a lot of people come for the bike path and a lot of people come for Glen Helen — so it is one of our main focuses in the community and beloved by all,” Cox said.
People are able to donate to the Save the Glen Fund by visiting yscf.org or savetheglen.com.