September 12, 2016
By Bill Creasey, Chief Naturalist
When I began my tenure here at Cincinnati Nature Center over 43 years ago, it was a very different place. There were 18 staff members and that included grounds crew and housekeeping. Today there are over 70 of us. Back then, there was a young tree near the beginning of the Mashburn Discovery Trail, and I could reach the top of it and look at its terminal bud for identification. Today that cottonwood tree towers over 50 feet tall! There was also a large waterfall just below the pump house, and through natural erosion it has been reduced to a section of mini-rapids. Membership was just over 3,000 and now we’re topping 11,000. Yes, change is natural and to be expected. As the saying goes, “Nothing is constant but change.”
The original tagline on the bottom of our stationery in 1973 read: “Teaching Environmental Education in the Krippendorf Beechwoods Sanctuary” and that is what we are still doing today in a variety of ways. Oh sure, we might use other names or distinctions such as outdoor education, environmental awareness or inquiry-based learning, but we are still getting kids and adults outside to love nature. The Krippendorf Lodge area is still a key location to hike with visitors ranging from school children to adults, and the building itself is the headquarters for our External Relations Department. The original beechwoods are changing as ancient beeches fall and give way to a mixed understory of young maples, black gum and younger beech trees.
But the one thing that might be changing, and not for the better, is visitors’ perception of this special land as a “sanctuary.” Dating all the way back to when the Krippendorf family lived here in the early 1900s, there was a reverence for the land. In fact, word has it that Carl Krippendorf made the original purchase to keep the property from being turned into a tobacco farm. By the time Carl finished creating his sanctuary, he had added hundreds of cultivated bulbs and perennials, created trails through his wooded landscapes and even constructed a pond. All visitors treated the land as a very special place. There was a definite reverence for the land shared by all.
Once Cincinnati Nature Center was formed as an organization, that same spirit of sanctuary was maintained as referenced by the tagline listed earlier. The stream was visited only at designated access points and hikers stayed on the trails and would be corrected if unknowingly forging off into the woods. Programming was extensive as education staff and volunteers offered multi-session classes, workshops and programs to familiarize visitors about the uniqueness of Cincinnati Nature Center lands.

As decades have slipped by for me, our land holdings have doubled, membership has tripled and staffing has quadrupled. But our society and culture have changed even more with technology and communication at our finger tips. People expect education to be quick due to short attention spans and time constraints. The reverence for the land is slipping away. Baby boomers, like me, need to share and remind everyone that a sanctuary deserves respect, just like it did 100 years ago when the Krippendorfs lived here. There are plenty of discoveries to be made right along the 20 miles of trails, or just along the boardwalk and at the stream access areas. Let’s leave all the rest for the wild things that grow and live here. After all, we are just visitors to their homes. Enter this green sanctuary with awe, wonder and respect, and Cincinnati Nature Center will be here in its pristine form for many generations to come.

If you see visitors disrespecting the land, they may not understand that this is a sanctuary. Feel free to remind or explain to them how we all need to respect the land and honor those who were here before us, as well as those who will come in the future. There will never be another like it. This is the ONLY Cincinnati Nature Center, truly, “A Place Like No Other!” Please care for it gently and lovingly so that there will continue to be sanctuary for all—wild things and visitors alike. ■

Bill Creasey, Cincinnati Nature Center's Chief Naturalist has shared his discoveries, knowledge and passion with us for over four decades. He has been called a walking encyclopedia of knowledge about local natural history. He attended Miami University where he graduated with double majors in Zoology and Botany, then his naturalist career in May 1973, here at Cincinnati Nature Center. 
This article was original published Newsleaf, fall 2016, a quarterly magazine for members of the Cincinnati Nature Center. To become a member, visit: