Natural Treasures

Three preservation properties provide unique outdoor classrooms

Stands of hardwood on a 51-acre preservation tract just south of the Lynchburg Regional Airport are a visible reminder of what the area looked like before rapid residential and commercial development.

“It’s becoming more and more like a little island because other land is being developed all around it,” said Ron Gettinger, a Randolph College biology professor.

Professors Doug Shedd (left) and Ron Gettinger at Randolph's nature preserve site off U.S. 29.

The preservation site was established nearly 50 years ago when Frank Flint, a biology professor for four decades at Randolph-Macon Woman’s College, helped to secure the donation of the land. Flint, who died in 1992, was known for his passion for conservation and saw the need to protect natural habitats for future generations. During his tenure, he helped bring two additional donations of preservation properties to the College, and Randolph students and professors are still benefiting from that foresight.

Biodiversity—the mix of species that coexist within a habitat—is a major area of study by biologists. Randolph’s land off U.S. 29, as well as a 59-acre tract in Elon, Virginia, and a 23-acre preserve in Campbell County, Virginia, provide Randolph faculty and students unique opportunities for research and study. Each site features various hardwoods and unique traits.

“These kinds of properties are being lost in the area,” said Doug Shedd, another Randolph biology professor. “As Lynchburg grows and expands, this type of land is being developed rapidly. Just from the point of habitat protection, it is important. These plots represent the type of forest that used to be there.”

Each property was donated with the provision that it remain undeveloped.

“They are valuable properties from an ecological point of view,” added Gettinger. “It’s significant that the College has been entrusted with them. We can take the lead in their preservation and benefit from them as well.”