Cope Environmental Center’s Story

propertyIn 1948, Jim and Helen Cope purchased about 30 acres of farm land between Centerville and Richmond and began planting a variety of trees, shrubs, and other plants. They pursued a sustainable lifestyle which involved the use of alternative energy, energy conservation, composting, and organic gardening. During their years of teaching, Jim at Earlham College and Helen at Centerville Junior-Senior High School, the property was the site of many field trips. Over the years, the collections of deciduous trees and conifers have matured and achieved regional significance in size and diversity. Simultaneously, their knowledge and insight regarding the many ways to conserve natural resources and live a sustainable lifestyle grew.

In 1992, Jim and Helen partnered with their friend Francis Parks, a dedicated botanist, horticulturist, and conservationist, to create the Francis Parks Foundation and the Cope Environmental Center to give permanent protection to this valuable piece of land and to teach others what they had learned.

In 1997, the Center tripled in size with the gift of 70 acres from Gertrude ‘Lucky’ Ward, a retired biology professor at Earlham College. Lucky was dedicated to the conservation of natural and cultural resources within the region. With the addition of another parcel of land in 1999, the Center increased to its current size of 102 acres.

Many wonderful people have contributed to CEC’s success in major ways…

jim_copehelenJim & Helen Cope, passionate stewards of the environment, created Cope Environmental Center to teach others about leading a sustainable life. Their passion was renewable energy, and east-central Indiana’s first wind turbine was raised on the CEC property in February of 2005 in honor of Helen’s commitment to alternative energy.



Francis Parks was a dedicated botanist and Jim & Helen’s partner in starting Cope Environmental Center.





Gertrude “Lucky” Ward forever changed the CEC property with her gift of 70 acres of beautiful land including her homestead, immediately adjacent to the original Cope family property.




Miss Sally Reahard left a lasting footprint with her gift of $416,000 when she passed away in 2003. Sally was a long-term supporter of CEC and environmental organizations throughout Indiana.