The Glen Helen Association received a grant from CenterPoint Energy for the museum’s renovations. The $35,000 will be split between infrastructure improvements, including improved HVAC and roof repairs, and new educational materials for the museum itself, said Glen Helen Association Executive Director Nick Boutis.
“It’ll be a museum that helps them and their children better understand our local environment and its ecological and cultural significance,” he said.
Some of the planned exhibits include improving the museum’s bird blind, where visitors can see the Glen’s birds up close, and items for kids to touch. The Glen also plans to bring back some of its animal ambassadors, like snakes and turtles, and new fish tanks for Ohio’s aquatic life.
“We steward a lot of watershed, and so really featuring some of the life that is supported in those habitats, it’d be really important as an educational space — and it’s cool-looking fish,” said Glen Helen Deputy Director Kat Christen.
The museum was built in a semester by Antioch College students in 1952 using reclaimed stone on the site, and has become the trailhead for Glen Helen’s educational programs ever since.
“All of the kids that went through the Outdoor Education Center over the last, close to 70 years have spent time at Trailside,” Boutis said.
When the pandemic hit in 2020, then-owner Antioch College closed all of the Glen’s trails and educational centers to the public. The Glen Helen Association purchased the 1,125-acre nature preserve in 2021, and has since reopened and refurbished much of its existing infrastructure, including making buildings and trails more disability-accessible. The association also demolished the derelict Antioch College Power Plant last year, something Boutis said was a “public safety hazard.”
“We looked at the most urgent things that we needed to do to get our core programs running, our residential, environmental learning programs. There were a bunch of things that we needed to do to get those buildings back up to code, rehire and train staff, that was a priority for us as well,” Boutis said.
Now, it’s Trailside Museum’s turn. Once renovations are complete, visitors can expect a “rustic, welcoming space that will include exhibits that focus their attention on the ecology, natural history, cultural history of our region, the story of Glen Helen, and the plants, animals, geology of this space,” Boutis said.