June 13, 2008

In an 1840s cabin tucked in the mountains of Lawrence County, youths and adults learn about the state’s native plants and animals at the 4-H Nature Center.

The center is managed by the county’s office of the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service.

The nature center began as a backyard wildlife habitat and expanded through grants extension received from East Kentucky Personal Responsibility In a Desirable Environment (PRIDE). It is open year round to people of all ages.

The cabin is filled with artifacts of native plants, insects and animals, many of which came as donations from people in the community and places such as Jenny Wiley State Resort Park.

Its exhibits include information about native species, natural predators and the construction of backyard habitats. Not only can visitors see these artifacts, but they can touch many of them.

The cabin, along with an outdoor classroom and four hiking trails totaling 2.5 miles, allow youths and adults to become more familiar with the environment. Pamela Hay, Lawrence County 4H Youth development agent, said the center has helped local young people better understand their environment. Youths from the local school system have visited the center during field trips.

“It helps them appreciate what they have and start to understand that the decisions they make, such as whether or not to litter, make a difference,” she said. “Their actions do have a consequence, which can be either good or bad.”

Youths not only learn from the center, but they also played a role in the center’s development. 4-H’ers built birdhouses, and a Boy Scout painted signs outside of the cabin and along the trails.

The Lawrence County High School carpentry class helped rebuild the cabin, as did staff of the UK’s Wood Utilization Center in Quicksand. A local man donated the cabin to the extension office. It was then moved from another area of the county to its current site at the Lawrence County Park, which is surrounded by Yatesville Lake State Park.

Originally, it was a four-room cabin, but the rooms were split up to make four one-room cabins. Currently only one cabin has been rebuilt, but Hay said she hopes to have the other three rebuilt and onsite soon with the goal of using them as lodging for day camps and overnight stays.