Sunday, March 05, 2000

Couple saving lands for sanctuary

Creek, gorge parcel growing

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Pledges of virtue have a way of backfiring. Ask Larry and Nancy Henry, who created Highlands Nature Sanctuary east of Cincinnati.

        Using only private funds, they are trying to save 4 miles of Rocky Fork Creek and the gorge it carved through Highland County limestone.

        “We had made a promise to our donors to contact them for fund-raising only once a year,” Mrs. Henry recalled.

        However, Cedar Run, a 310-acre farm that included a half-mile of the Rocky Fork gorge, suddenly became available.

        “We were in a dilemma,” Mrs. Henry said. “We needed the money right away to secure the land.”

        But their 1999 donor letter had gone out months earlier.

        The Henrys, so retro they only recently installed an indoor (composting) toilet at their home near the gorge, found technology saved them.

        “E-mail saved the day,” Mrs. Henry said. “Without using any donor money for stamps or paper, we were able to keep many donors up to date by e-mail, schedule adventure hikes into Cedar Run, and raise significant funds.”

        That led to further e-mail ventures for the non-profit sanctuary which has state nature preserve status.

        “E-mail allowed us to schedule our first volunteer meeting and several volunteer events and also allowed us to inform people of upcoming educational events and news in general.”

        It also meant trees weren't sacri ficed to save trees.

        In the recent note accompanying the 2000 ink-on-paper newsletter, Mrs. Henry said the crises are not over. “We have just been notified of the likelihood of several extremely important tracts of land for sale.”

        Two smaller pieces on the gorge will be turned into housing if the sanctuary doesn't buy them, she predicted. The third is a “stunning” larger parcel that could expand gorge protection significantly.

        Mrs. Henry said about 96 percent of donations goes for land purchase. The remainder covers her $12,000 annual salary and incidental expenses at the sanctuary.

        This year, Larry Henry will take a salary — $6,000 — for the first time. In addition to being resident naturalist, he will manage the two overnight facilities. Mrs. Henry expects that income to more than cover her husband's pay.

        Meanwhile, the sanctuary grows. The Henrys donated a four-bedroom cabin, the Hermitage, and its 11 acres on the gorge. They bought it when the sanctuary lacked funds and renovated it for overnight guests before signing it over.

        That brought the sanctuary to more than 900 acres on both sides of the creek and around 7 Caves private park east of Hillsboro.

        Just as visitors may not bring dogs, guests at Hermitage and the larger Beechcliff hunting lodge donated in 1996 must adhere to the Henry/sanctuary ethic: No tobacco or alcohol, recycling is required, food scraps are composted, TV, radio and computers are banned and shoes are left by the door.

        The sanctuary is not open to casual passersby. However, in addition to quiet, contemplative individual or group stays, the Henrys offer free guided tours of the Rocky Fork Gorge on first Sundays of the months through December at 1:30 p.m. There also will be free afternoon wildflower walks at 1:30 p.m. April 16 and April 30.

        An extensive wildflower pilgrimage will be 9:30 a.m.-6 p.m. April 29. Advance registration is required and the $20 fee includes an evening meal.

        Other events include an Earth Day celebration on April 22.

        The sanctuary Web site is E-mail or telephone is (937) 365-1363 for reservations, directions and a newsletter-calendar.

        • What: Deborah Miller of Loveland will give a slide presentation on Highlands Nature Sanctuary, sponsored by the Sierra Club.

        • When: 7:30 p.m. Monday. (She will repeat the show 7:30 p.m. March 10 at Nature Outfitters, 118 Main, Milford.)

        • Where: Raymond Walters College auditorium, 9555 Plainfield Road, Blue Ash.

        • Information: 683-6514.


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