The mission of Brown Family Environmental Center (BFEC) is to conserve natural diversity and engage people of all ages with nature. The BFEC is a part of Kenyon College, and also serves the general public by providing programs, events, school field trips, and access to our 500-acre preserve.
The BFEC opened in 1995 as the Kenyon Center for Environmental Study. In 1999, it was renamed to recognize a generous gift from the Minigowin Foundation in honor of Robert Bowen Brown (former Kenyon Provost) and family. Our team has grown from one part-time staff member in 1995 to four full-time staff members today, as well as Kenyon student employees.
The 500-acre BFEC preserve spans the rolling hills of the State Scenic Kokosing River valley. We manage a diverse array of habitats to promote natural diversity, teaching and self-guided learning for students and community members of all ages.
Part of our mission is to share the story of Ohio's landscape, which has experienced extraordinary change in the last 200 years. Forests once blanketed the state, but coverage shrank to just 10% in the early 1900's. Forests have now grown back over about one-third of Ohio, and many species of wildlife have returned. What will our surroundings look like in 2100?
The goal of the BFEC is to help the land return to a healthy, self-sustaining ecosystem through strategies ranging from reforestation to education. This vision provides a future for Ohio’s natural diversity, as well as one offering clean air, clean drinking water and a beautiful place for the Knox County residents to call home.
On the BFEC's nine miles of trail, visitors can experience the serene waters of the Kokosing River, towering grasses in our prairie, a spring chorus of frogs in our wetlands, or the cool canopy of our beech-maple forests. Visitors looking for relaxation can enjoy picnic tables in our pavilion or comfy chairs in our wildlife garden, which features over sixty species of native plants and the many butterflies and birds they attract.
The BFEC offers regular programs that are usually free and open to the public, on topics such as wildflowers, star gazing, nature art, or medicinal plants.
While programs offer opportunities for informal education, the BFEC also offers a novel resource to Kenyon College classes ranging from art to zoology, an opportunity to view nature through a new lens. English classes seek inspiration for haiku poems, while photography classes hone new techniques. Science students conduct research on topics such as bird foraging, bluebird nesting habits or the impacts of invasive species on forests.
Both Kenyon College students and community members volunteer to bring 1,000 elementary school children to the BFEC on field trips every year. Vocabulary words like "adaptation" and "food web" take on new meaning as children see these concepts in action while exploring our preserve.