Mahan Nature Preserve
is Oldhams outdoor classroom
Helen E. McKinney,
(February 2002) GOSHEN, Ky. Howard Mahan was a conservationist
ahead of his time. In 1978, he remarked of his and wife Virginias
200-acre Goshen, Ky., farm, I wanted our farm to be something
special for Oldham Countians and Kentuckians.
Mahan realized then that the future of his farm lay in subdividing it,
if plans were not set for its preservation. He prepared for a future
that others could enjoy, long after he and his wife were gone.
The result was the establishment of the Creasey Mahan
Nature Preserve, located between Hwy. 1793 and Harmony Lane in northern
Oldham County. Its rather remote location prompts many visitors to frequently
remark, I didnt even know it was here, said Larry
Brown, director of Grounds and Buildings.
Youre totally surrounded by the city of Goshen, said
Brown, reiterating Mahans fear that his farm would have been incorporated
into the city had it fallen into the hands of developers. Seen as an
alternative, the preserve is an oasis quietly tucked into the heart
The Mahans christened their farm, Hill O Content.
It had been presented to them in 1921 as a wedding gift from Virginias
father, L.L. Creasey. The newlyweds set up housekeeping in a crude,
four-room log cabin built in 1807.
The farm was part of an original land grant of 287 acres deeded to James
Taylor. William Edwards was the next owner, purchasing it on Jan. 26,
1807. Edwards erected the house that same year, and for a time it was
the parsonage for community pastors and teachers.
Almost immediately, the Mahans began remodeling their new home,
wrapping the outside in clapboard. They converted the chicken
run, as Howard had labeled the dog trot, into a beautiful, stylish
hallway that complemented the overall resplendency of the estate.
Wildlife and native grass plots, a field house and nature center are
only a few components of the preserve. Winding trails take the hiker
past more then 45,000 trees, shrubs and bushes Mahan had planted by
1978 to attract a variety of birds to the area.
We feel we can be an outdoor lab, said Executive Director
Various hiking and birding clubs use the preserve, as well as school
groups and boy scouts. It is an idyllic setting in which to educate
students for the day, topping off their experience with a picnic
before leaving. The City of Goshen recently provided playground equipment
for the preserve.
Several educational and enrichment programs are offered at the preserve
on topics such as trees, wildflowers, birds of prey, history, wetlands,
song birds, and woodlands and meadows. Yost said that certain individuals
skilled in particular areas of study aid with these programs by sharing
their knowledge with school groups.
One of the preserves regular resources is J. D. Stucker, whose
area of expertise is Native American Culture. I teach about the
way of life before Kentucky was Kentucky, and after Kentucky was Kentucky,
His program provides the listener with insight into the tribes, dress,
dance, music, food, dwellings and much more about the culture of Kentuckys
Stucker has also helped build a Native American diorama in the preserves
Nature Center. Children can often learn more from such displays than
from history books, Stucker said. He strives to teach children that
the old ways of doing things are the best way, and to explain
the ecosystem the way it was meant to be.
Such programs put into perspective what students may already have been
taught in the classroom. The program content stresses what is most familiar
and native to this particular area of Kentucky and the Ohio River. The
preserve can comfortably accommodate up to 125 students at one time.
There are 50 acres of meadows, with wetlands, springs, groves and an
unusual rock platform. A frog pond is often used when teaching in the
outdoor setting, and Little Huckleberry Creek runs merrily through the
Approximately 160 acres of the original Mahan farm are contained within
the preserve today.
A board comprised of seven directors now manage the preserve, seeing
to its overall maintenance. According to Yost, the Mahans set up separate
foundations before each died, desiring that the money be used for the
upkeep of the preserve.
Having no children of their own, the Mahans left a considerable amount
of money for the upkeep of their preserve. The dividends cover all expenses,
The Mahans generosity has enabled youth groups, school students
and other organizations to garner an understanding and appreciation
of the natural resources of the land from the hands-on experiences they
observe at the preserve.
Sue Stock, a retired Oldham County science teacher, says she loves the
idea of teaching in an outdoor educational setting. Stock assists the
preserve by providing a program on rocks and soils because, as she puts
it, Thats whats underfoot. Every rock has its own
Kids spend so little time outside, Stock said. Stock said
that when she was young, she played outside all of the time, learning
first-hand about the marvels of nature. Kids today dont
have this same opportunity unless you provide it for them. The outdoors
is our laboratory.
Stock stresses in her programs at the preserve that the land ties
in to what we do with nature. Its wonderful to study the changes
of this very farm over time, as it changed from farm to preserve.
Howard Mahan expressed his dream to incorporate his farm into an extensive
wildlife sanctuary when he said, It has become the labor of my
life, and I feel were on the right track. For his efforts,
Mahan in 1978 was awarded a Soil Conservationist of the Year
plaque by the League of Kentucky Sportsmen and the National Wildlife
That same year, more than 350 quail were raised in a special brood house
and released on the farm. Plans were designed for certain areas of the
preserve to contain food plots for wildlife to feed upon. Corn, sorghum
and millet were planted for these purposes.
Larry is trying to increase the current wildlife population,
said Yost, by continuing to develop and add to the existing plots. In
Yosts words, the preserve truly is a refuge for nature.
Back to February 2002