Audubon to host talk by environmental steward on history and conservation efforts of Beech Haven property


ATHENS – Vice chair of the Oconee Rivers Greenway Commission and National Park Service retiree will discuss Beech Haven – a hidden ecological sanctuary in the heart of Athens, GA at the Oconee Rivers Audubon Society’s next monthly meeting.

Nat Kuykendall, the vice chair of the Oconee Rivers Greenway Commission, will trace the fascinating history of the Beech Haven property, discuss on-going efforts to protect the site, and Beech Haven’s exciting potential as part of the Athens-Clarke County Greenway Network when the Oconee Rivers Audubon Society holds its next meeting at 7 p.m. Thursday, December 1, at Sandy Creek Nature Center.

To date Athens-Clarke County has acquired more than 100 acres of “Beech Haven”, the Rowland family's historic rustic retreat along the Middle Oconee River. Beech Haven is now surrounded by suburban and commercial development, but remains a secluded natural sanctuary. The site has a long history as an important social and religious gathering place in Athens and, with new public ownership, may once again be a cultural and recreational hub for the community. Kuykendall will discuss in detail the history and the ecological significance of Beech Haven as well as current conservation efforts.

Kuykendall is currently vice chair of the Oconee Rivers Greenway Commission. He retired in 2008 after 32 years with the National Park Service, starting as a seasonal ranger in Great Smoky Mountains National Park and ending as chief of the Planning Division of the National Park Service’s central office for planning, design, and construction. Nat served as a natural resource specialist and project manager for more than 40 planning projects for such diverse areas as Virgin Islands, Everglades, Acadia, Big Bend, Grand Canyon, and Sequoia national parks and Rock Creek Park in Washington DC. He also led Department of the Interior teams assisting Bulgaria and Kenya in planning for new parklands.  

The meeting will be held in the Nature Center’s Education and Visitor Center, 205 Old Commerce Road off U.S. Highway 441 north of Athens. To reach the center from the Loop 10 bypass, exit at U.S. Highway 441/Commerce Road and turn north toward Commerce. Go approximately a mile, turn left at the Sandy Creek Nature Center sign and go to the end of the road. Turn left at Old Commerce Road; parking for the Education and Visitor Center will be on the right.

For more information, visit, or contact Audubon chapter President Brian Cooke at or Publicity Chair Heather Abernathy at

The Oconee Rivers Audubon Society is a nonprofit organization of people brought together by a love of birds and nature. We strive to promote conservation and provide a voice for environmental issues, we organize several local conservation projects each year, and we host public presentations on subjects related to birds, nature, and conservation at our monthly meetings. Audubon meets at 7 p.m. on the first Thursday of the month at Sandy Creek Nature Center. Please check our news and events pages to learn about upcoming activities.