In 1993, Dr. Louise Kreher Turner and her husband, Frank Allan Turner, donated 119 acres of forest land to Auburn University’s College of Forestry, Wildlife and Environment. As Auburn and surrounding areas continued to grow, the Turners wanted to see their land remain an intact nature preserve and become a source of environmental education where “students” could study, learn, appreciate, and enjoy the natural world.
Long before the Turners, the land first belonged to the Creeks. On June 19, 1841, as part of a much larger sale, the land was sold to Jesse Carter. Sometime later, Dr. Phillip and Sidney Watkins purchased the property and built a two story, two-bedroom home on the site where the Pond Pavilion now sits. At their deaths in 1900, the estate was auctioned in front of the Lee County Courthouse where it was purchased by Jacob Bartow Cooper and his wife, Ella Leland Cooper. Frank and Dr. Louise Kreher Turner bought the land from the Coopers after the house burnt down in the late 1930’s. The Turners used the former cotton farm for cattle for a couple of decades before allowing the land to return to forest.
After the land was donated to Auburn University, Dr. Turner continued to manage the land through the year 2000, and began developing public programming around 1998. In 2001, management shifted to a volunteer program run by Preserve coordinator Margaret Holler (who you will still often find working in the KPNC’s many gardens), under the direction of Dr. Richard Brinker, Dean of College of Forestry, Wildlife and Environment.
In 2007, Auburn University hired the first full-time administrator, Jennifer Lolley, a 1986 Auburn University graduate, to help further develop the land and its resources. As a result of this investment, in 2008 the Preserve became fully accessible to the public seven days a week, year-round. Today the Preserve acts as an outreach program of the College of Forestry, Wildlife and Environment, serving as a local resource for outdoor recreation and environmental education for thousands of visitors and students each year.
In 2015, a re-branding campaign was launched through which the Louise Kreher Forest Ecology Preserve became the Kreher Preserve and Nature Center (KPNC). The new shortened name was adopted to better illustrate the expanding scope of the preserve’s community and outreach resources.
“This interchangeable use of the Kreher Preserve and Nature Center ‘sub-brand’ more accurately describes the management and public use of the property as green space and the breadth of the educational resources provided there,” said Dr. B. Graeme Lockaby, the school’s interim dean and McClure professor. Jennifer Lolley, preserve outreach administrator, concurred, noting that its identity as both a “preserve” and “nature center” speaks fully to the facility’s scope of programming. “We want the community to understand it is welcomed to enjoy all that the preserve offers, and we feel this change will help to achieve that goal,” she said.