Thanks to a gift of land from a local alumnus, University of Lynchburg is expanding the Claytor Nature Study Center, a move that will provide students and scientists with new opportunities for study and research.
Bob Kibler, of Evington, gave the College 21 acres of a tract that borders the northern boundary of the Claytor Center. Finalized in December, the gift increases the Center’s footprint to 491 acres.
“We are thrilled to see the Claytor Nature Study Center grow,” said Dr. Kenneth R. Garren, president of University of Lynchburg. “The additional land will be a significant educational asset to the LC community, as well as our neighbors in Central Virginia and beyond. We are grateful to Mr. Kibler for this gift, stemming from our mutual love for conservation and nature.”
Dr. Gregory Eaton, director of the Claytor Center, said the new land provides many resources. The tract contains numerous blueberry and blackberry plants as well as an orchid colony, and the plot is almost entirely free of nonnative plants. It includes a hill that likely establishes a new highest elevation for the Claytor Center and offers beautiful views of the Peaks of Otter.
Part of the donated land was clear cut a few years ago to allow regrowth of a fresh forest, which presents exciting research opportunities, said Dr. Eaton. “It’s growing back pretty quickly. It provides a very interesting new opportunity for a longitudinal forest study,” he said. “This would allow us to track how the species present in a forest change as the trees get larger and shade the ground.”
Kibler, who earned his undergraduate degree and Master of Business Administration from University of Lynchburg, has long been devoted to conservation. His land by the Claytor Center is one of two pieces of land he has placed under conservation easements. “My legacy is to leave some land that will always be there for people who like nature,” he said.
A retired manager who worked with BWX Technologies and AREVA, Kibler said he has long admired the decision of his friend Boyd Claytor to donate land to University of Lynchburg for the formation of the Claytor Nature Study Center in the 1990s. The center now thrives as a location for research, school field trips, hiking, camping, and summer programs for youth. “I’m happy just to make the contribution and continue Boyd’s vision,” said Kibler.
Located in Bedford County, the Claytor Nature Study Center provides LC students and faculty with a natural area to conduct research and educational activities. It also hosts field trips for K-12 students who are learning about nature. The Center is home to LC’s Belk Astronomical Observatory.