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Fernbank Forest, DeKalb Schools to End Lease

Owner of the forest failed to give the district the option to renew the lease

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 , 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 , 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 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 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.

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Editor's Note: The original version of the article incorrectly spelled Aneli Nugteren. Patch regrets this error.

Ginny Mauldin-Kinney May 01, 2012 at 07:10 PM
Fernbank Science Center should continue to maintain the forest for educational purposes. If it gets managed by the Fernbank Museum, under the Fernbank Inc. umbrella , they will insist on charging the public for access to something that has been free and open to the public for decades. I, for one, gained an immense appreciation of nature due to having access to the forest in my youth. It should remain available to all.

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