For 45 years, the DeKalb County School System leased and used Fernbank Forest to educate students about nature and the environment.
But starting July 1, the 65-acre forest will no longer be leased by the school district.
Fernbank Inc., owner of the forest and the Fernbank Museum of Natural History on Clifton Road, decided not to renew the lease with the school system. The lease will end on June 30, 2012, and Fernbank Inc. will take over the day to day operations.
The forest is technically leased to the Fernbank Science Center, which is run by the DeKalb County school system.
The center hosts exhibits about nature and science to the county’s K through 12 students while also providing access to the public.
Historically, the district used and maintained the forest, pond and 1.5 mile nature trail.
"Many DeKalb students have enjoyed memorable learning experiences during
our long relationship with Fernbank Forest," DeKalb County Schools Superintendent Cheryl Atkinson said in a statement. "We will be working with our partners in the community to ensure that all of our students have unique opportunities to learn about science and nature."
The school system will continue to run the Fernbank Science Center located on the edge of the forest.
In 2011, Fernbank Inc. pushed to take over the lease of the forest, but chose to hold off for a year.
Fernbank Inc. Chief Operating Officer Aneli Nugteren told Patch Fernbank trustees leased the forest land to the DeKalb County Board of Education in the 60s with intentions of taking over at a later, undetermined date.
The Fernbank Science Center was completed in 1967, well before the museum was even in the works, Nugteren said.
It’s unclear how programs that cross between the science center and the forest will be impacted. Currently, there are several programs that include both entities, including tours of the forest with a naturalist from the center.
Editor's Note: The original version of the article incorrectly spelled Aneli Nugteren. Patch regrets this error.