Put to good use

Environmental Education Center
opens in remote area of Henry County

Formerly Crowe’s Chase, center will
now serve individuals with disabilities

By Helen E. McKinney
Contributing Writer

DEFOE, Ky. – Mike and Jeanne Crowe have shared the same dream for the last 20 years: to turn the property they once owned into an educational tool to be used by those with disabilities. Their vision has been to share with others a natural environment that is soon to become a national model for future similar projects.

Mike and Jeanne Crowe

Photo by Helen E. McKinney

The Educational Center was made possible
with the help of Mike and Jeanne Crowe,
former owners of the land.

They are the previous owners of a parcel of land in Henry County formerly known as Crowe’s Chase. Six-Mile Creek flows through the property located on Hwy. 421 south of Defoe. The state of Kentucky purchased 300-plus acres from the Crowes in September 2001 with a $530,000 grant provided by the Kentucky Heritage Land Conservation Fund.
The property is comprised mostly of hardwood forests, with some areas containing growth more than a century old. Originally, the Crowes owned 400 acres, but because of Mike’s progressive muscular dystrophy, they had to sell three-fourths of it when he could no longer take care of the land. They envisioned the outcome to be a place for others with and without disabilities to share, with education being the top focus.
Although the property is state owned, management duties fell at first to the Kentucky School for the Blind. When the project was not moving along fast enough, the Crowes and the property’s advisory board decided a change was necessary.
Dr. William Martin, chair of the Kentucky Heritage Land Conservation Fund Board, contacted Kentucky State University. The college, which is only 15 miles from the property, “had the same mission statement we had,” said Crowe.
Martin called the Crowes “stewards of this land.” They understand the vision and commitment such an endeavor entails, said Martin. Through the sustainability of their vision, the property will be enjoyed and used as an educational facility for years to come.
The Crowes provided the resource to make their dream a reality, and KSU will become a leader on a statewide, region and national level, officials said.
This project is “a vision of environmental education in this state,” said Martin.
The property is now managed by KSU through its Land Grant Program. The university had a disability related program that attracted the Crowes’ attention, but offered no center for their environmental education studies. That is, until now.
As of Nov. 11, the property was renamed Kentucky State University Environmental Education Center.
Henry County Judge-Executive John Logan Brent said, “Anytime land can be preserved in its natural state, that certainly has a value for the county and for future generations. Once it’s developed, you can never go back.”
Brent pointed out that the property is in a remote area and is “best in some entity’s hands like a university that has the funding to keep it up. Kentucky State University has a great reputation when it comes to sustainable agriculture,” he said.
Pat Wallace, executive director of the Henry County Chamber of Commerce, first became involved with this project on a tourism level. Because the property was in her county, she first viewed it as a potential tourist attraction, but it has become much more to her since then. “Mike and Jeanne got me involved. They’re such caring people,” said Wallace.
She sees its remoteness as a plus. “This is what it should be,” said Wallace. It is an outdoor classroom with endless possibilities for educating children as well as adults.
“It is amazing what Kentucky State has done in such a short amount of time,” Wallace said. In the past, this project lacked money and manpower. Wallace said she is glad to see that the property is finally “being utilized, and not just setting there.”
Home Depot has been one of the biggest supporters of this project, said Crowe. Regional District Manager Deedee Quinones and her husband, Tom, have made a commitment to see the project through. Home Depot supplied all of the necessary lumber and supplies to build a handicap accessible ramp and deck overlooking a lake on the property.
“This is a unique project for the community,” said Crowe. He said he thanks God everyday for the unique opportunity that has been given to him and his wife.
When a friend asked what was the one thing he wanted to get done in his life, his reply was, “This is it.”

• To learn more about this project, contact Kentucky State University at (502) 597-6000 or Mike Crowe at (502) 458-5258.

Back to December 2005 Articles.



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