Getting closer to nature

Photo courtesy of Spencer Poling
The Procter Camp & Conference Center is embarking on a multi-phase, multi-year project to enhance access to its 70 acres of forested wetlands.

(Posted Nov. 27, 2023)

By Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor

The Procter Camp & Conference Center, part of the Episcopal Diocese of Southern Ohio, states that its mission is to “embody and teach creation care, spiritual development, and hospitality by becoming a beloved community.”

When asked to explain the creation care component, Jerusalem Greer, Procter’s interim executive director, said, “It means we work towards caring for the earth, all of what we would term creation–flora, fauna, climate, the environment, all of that–as an expression of our Christian faith.”

The center–a retreat, camp, farm, and event facility on State Route 38 just outside of London–recently received state funding for a project that will better connect people with the plants and animals in the facility’s 70 acres of forested wetlands.

Slated to start in late winter or early spring, the project involves installing a boardwalk, observation deck, teaching space, and educational placards.

\This will allow visitors an up-close look at the area’s unique features, including vernal pools which are shallow depressions that typically contain water for only part of the year. These pools serve as habitat for all sorts of creatures, including red-spotted newts, fairy shrimp, crayfish, dragonflies, and frogs.

Funding for the project came in the form of a $5,000 Environmental Education Fund grant from the Ohio EPA. Procter was one of 13 organizations across the state to receive funding this fall. Half of the civil penalties the state collects for violations of air and water pollution control regulations goes into the fund for grants, scholarships, and other efforts that promote environmental education.

This project signals the start of fulfillment of a broader vision Procter has for teaching creation care.

“It’s going to take a while. It will be built in stages,” said Greer, noting the center is working on a five-year plan. “This grant helps us begin the process of those first stages.”

The overall plan includes the introduction of more native plantings to complement the existing grasses, shrubs, and trees. Trail systems could be in place by next summer. Other observation decks are a possibility.

“The hope is that we can have school groups come out for field trips or even overnight stays,” Greer said. “We plan to offer guided tours either by members of our staff or people from the community. We (already) have facilities where groups could stay overnight in cabins. We want to have outdoor camping options, as well.”

Photo courtesy of Spencer Poling
Vernal pools are a unique natural feature in the forested woodlands at the Procter Camp & Conference Center. These shallow pools of water provide habitat for a variety of creatures, from red-spotted newts to fairy shrimp.

Once completed, the amenities would be available to anyone participating in a camp, retreat, or event at the Procter. They also would be available to the public.

“Anyone is welcome to come and visit and explore our natural offerings just by coordinating ahead of time with our office,” Greer said.

Eventually, Danielle Vogel, the center’s director of farm development and creation care advocacy, will coordinate community engagement programs with schools and other groups.

“We’re excited about what we have planned. We’re grateful, and we look forward to sharing with the wider community,” Greer said.

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