The University of Lynchburg community recently celebrated the 20-year anniversary of the creation of the Claytor Nature Center, the University’s nature preserve dedicated to environmental education and recreation.
The celebration began with a family fun day on Saturday, August 11. About 170 people, including the families of faculty, staff, and more than 50 local alumni, attended. After a ceremony honoring the pioneers of the Claytor Nature Center, families filled the day with hayrides, games, music, crafts, and wading in the Big Otter River.
The Claytor Nature Center began as an idea of Boyd and Virginia Claytor, who wanted to see their Bedford County farmland become a place where nature could be studied and enjoyed. After Virginia Claytor’s death, her husband approached then-Lynchburg College President Charlie Warren to talk about giving the property to the institution.
Within one month, the farm was given to the institution and its transformation to an educational center began.
Twenty years later, the institution fulfills many roles, said director Dr. Greg Eaton.
“It’s a field station for our faculty and for our students, and it’s a whole lot more than that,” he said during a ceremony at the celebration. “It’s a site for total immersion in the environment for children of all ages who are interested in being educated about nature. We’re the Blue Ridge Mountain campus of the University of Lynchburg.
“Our mission is to facilitate learning about nature through education and research, promote and demonstrate sustainable human-environment interactions, and support the diversity and function of ecosystems on our 491-acre conservancy.”
In addition to an education building with classrooms and an herbarium, the site is home to the Belk Astronomical Observatory, an eco-lodge built with sustainable practices, the Cloverlea farmhouse, a campsite, and several miles of trails.
During the ceremony, Dr. Eaton named 20 people who have been instrumental in developing the Claytor Nature Center and its programs. They were:
Dr. Kari Benson
Dr. Nancy Cowden
Dr. Priscilla Gannicot
Dr. Ken Garren
Bob Kibler ’79, ’80 MBA
Dr. Woody McKenzie
Dr. Edward Polloway
Dr. Gwen Ramsey
Dr. Julius Sigler ’62
Dr. John Styrsky
Dr. Jennifer Styrsky
Dr. Neal Sumerlin
Dr. David Perault
Desi Justis ’86, ’95 MEd
Dr. Tom Shahady