The Wilderness Center will educate our community on issues related to our natural world, preserve and protect forests and wetlands for future generations, inspire our neighbors to become active in making small changes in their own backyard and encourage them to join us as advocates for our natural world.
Founded in 1964
Thanks to a humble beginning with the estate of Charlie Sigrist and attorney, retired U.S. Rep. Ralph Regula, Dr. Charles King from Malone College and Arnold Fritz, president of the Canton Audubon Society, The Wilderness Center (TWC) has grown from a dream into a community treasure. Dr. Charles King and Arnold Fritz saw the need for a nature center in northeast Ohio. Although they didn’t yet have money to make an offer, when they found out about the Sigrist land, they approached Regula with interest, hope and a concept.
King and Fritz saw that property could effectively serve the surrounding areas, but learned that a strip mining company was also interested. Regula cared deeply about the environment and wanted to preserve the property’s pristine forests, so he requested a grant from the Timken Foundation to assist King and Fritz with the formation of TWC. The Timken Foundation donated $67,500 for the purchase of the Sigrist lands and the adjacent Warstler property. The Stark County Foundation, the Canton Garden Center, Dr. Tom Soehnlen and Bernice McKenzie Frease, a state representative, also contributed toward the purchase. The Wilderness Center
Growth through the years
The first professional staff were hired in 1965. In 1974, TWC constructed the Interpretive Building located on the 600 acre Headquarters property in Wilmot, Ohio, which was then expanded with an addition in 2000. The building continues to provide a focal point for the Center’s many activities. In addition to its Interpretive Building, TWC’s headquarters today boast 10 miles of hiking trails, an Astronomy Education Building featuring a digital planetarium and observatory, a Native Plant Nursery and a Nature Playscape. TWC is open to the public year round and admission is free.
There have been four executive directors in TWC’s more than 50-year history. Jeremy Felland served as the first leader of the organization, followed in 1981 by Gordon Maupin. Dr. Jeffrey R. Corney assumed the role in 2014 and Jeanne M. Gural was appointed to the position in 2019. Through these changes, the Center’s commitment to the community has been constant.
Today and tomorrow
Today, The Wilderness Center remains relevant and continues to stay ahead of the curve through innovative approaches to environmental science education and land conservation. TWC teaches the next generation to appreciate our natural world through school classes and educational programs for children and families, while also offering a variety of classes, workshops and clubs to interest learners of all ages, including virtual learning opportunities and programs in the surrounding community.
What started as a mere 251 acres in 1964 has become more than 3,380 acres of agricultural land, forest, meadow, wetland and prairie in seven counties. TWC also operates a revolving land fund to assist other conservation organizations in obtaining critical parcels of land, and guides the management of nearly 15,000 acres of privately owned forest through TWC Consulting Forestry.
Through the Backyard Habitat Initiative and Dark Skies Conservation programs, TWC serves as a guide and resource to help our neighbors take small steps toward positive changes for the benefit of our community. TWC’s conservation burial ground, Foxfield Preserve, brings the peace of nature to those experiencing loss and grief. An environmentally-friendly alternative to modern burial, Foxfield Preserve also preserves natural land and provides sustainable funding for TWC’s conservation efforts.
Jeanne M. Gural
Jeanne was appointed TWC Executive Director in 2019. Prior to that Jeanne had served as Executive Director of the Woodford Cedar Run Wildlife Refuge in Medford, New Jersey, since 2009. Her oversight of Cedar Run included the Woodford Nature Center, an outdoor Wildlife Housing Area with more than 60 native residents and a Wildlife Rehabilitation Hospital. Prior to joining Cedar Run, she served as Director of Preserves and Facilities at The Nature Conservancy and as Habitat Restoration Program Manager at Rutgers University. Jeanne holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Organismal Biology and Biological Anthropology from Pitzer College in Claremont, Calif., and has completed graduate work in Ecology, Plant Identification, Wildlife Ecology and Habitat Restoration.
Conservation Manager; Senior Biologist
Gary joined The Wilderness Center in 2008. During his tenure he has focused on habitat restoration, conservation planning, prescribed fire, mapping and representing TWC within the regional conservation community as liaison to the Lake Erie Allegheny Partnership for Biodiversity.
Gary was previously employed with the Ohio Chapter of the Nature Conservancy where he was the project manager of the Big Darby Creek headwaters restoration project and created conservation plans for several TNC nature preserves. Prior to that, Gary was employed by the US Fish And Wildlife Services (USFWS) at Merritt Island NWR where his work included monitoring nesting seas turtles, shorebirds, bald eagle nesting sites, establishing a refuge-wide Florida scrub-jay monitoring program and serving as a wildland fire fighter. He also worked with USFWS at the Vero Beach Ecological Services office where he worked to protect threatened and endangered species, while also taking part in the south Florida Coastal Program that included habitat restoration and research projects.
Gary received his Master of Science degree with a concentration in wildlife ecology, conducting a two year research project that studied the effects of protected riparian buffers on avian communities in an agricultural landscape at California University of Pennsylvania, where he was awarded the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania University Biologist Award as outstanding senior in the life sciences
Foxfield Preserve Director
Sara joined the Foxfield Preserve in 2012. During her tenure with the Preserve she has become deeply involved in promoting natural and conservation burial in the state of Ohio and across the nation. In October 2015, Sara was named as one of the “Pioneering Women of Natural Death Care” in American Cemetery & Cremation magazine. She is a founding member of the national Conservation Burial Alliance, which launched in 2018. Sara presented at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History Conservation Symposium in 2018, and at the Land Trust Alliance national Rally in 2019 and 2021, encouraging conservationists to embrace natural burial as a powerful tool for their cause.
Tiffany Leeper grew up on a small family farm in rural Ohio. Her early experiences in agriculture and interacting with the natural world shaped her broad view of how human activities impact ecosystems. She earned a Masters of Public Administration with a specialization in Environmental Management from Bowling Green State University.
Tiffany's true passions are working with organizations that directly influence conservation and sustainability and building relationships across the community to make a positive impact in environmental quality. Her previous work has been with North Union Farmers Market, Wooster Local Foods Cooperative, United Way of Wayne and Holmes Counties, Alaska Conservation Foundation, and Cuyahoga Valley National Park Association. She is currently a founding board member of FoodSphere, the Entrepreneurial Center at Local Roots in Wooster whose mission is to champion sustainable agriculture and food production. Tiffany appreciates the opportunity for creative problem-solving and strategic positioning that is required to work in the nonprofit realm.
Adam has been with The Wilderness Center since TWC Consulting Forestry was launched in 2007. In that time he has developed a startup business into a successful forestry consulting firm which is known throughout Ohio for their contributions to sustainable resource management and development. Adam is dedicated to aiding private forest land owners with the management of their woodlands. His experience and breadth of knowledge make him an invaluable guide for timber harvest administration, long term management planning, property tax programs, and a host of other services that TWC Consulting Forestry offers.
In March of 2021, Adam received the award of “Outstanding Individual in Private Service” in the field of forestry by the Ohio Forestry Association. He has also been recognized on multiple occasions for his contributions to the Society of American Foresters and The Ohio Tree Farm Program. He currently serves on the Executive Committee for the Ohio SAF and is the program administrator for the Ohio Tree Farm Program.
Community Outreach Coordinator; Senior Naturalist
Carrie has worked for over 20 years. Carrie grew up in Holmes County, wandering the fields and playing in the creek. Carrie graduated from Hiram College, served as a research assistant in Trinidad, Suriname, and Alaska, and worked at an outdoors school in Massachusetts before returning to Holmes County to begin work at TWC. Her passions include all creatures weird or slimy and connecting people of all ages with the amazing nature stories unfolding in their own backyards and neighborhoods.
Karrie McAllister has been with TWC since 2015. She graduated with a degree in geology from The College of Wooster and will always be the one to stop and look at rocks while teaching school groups. She and her family live in Orrville, and when she’s not working she enjoys staying active with fitness, hiking, and skiing.
Terri enjoyed participating in family programs with her two boys at TWC for many years. While teaching preschool in Orrville she developed an interest in nature education, taking graduate coursework in the field to update her teaching license. She completed the Ohio Certified Volunteer Naturalist class and became a docent before joining the staff in 2015. Terri enjoys leading the Storytime Sprouts programs and teaching many of the school field trip classes. She delights in those moments when young students excitedly discover something new, master a practiced skill or witness nature in action.
Krista Pochedly- Davis
Naturalist and Education Specialist
Krista grew up in rural Portage County, where she played in the creek and canoed on her family's pond spying on turtles and capturing frogs. Inspired by naturalist programs as a child, she set up her own "nature center" in the family camper. Today, Krista has a bachelor's degree in environmental conservation and an associate's in veterinary technology, both from Kent State University. She is a registered vet tech and a wildlife rehabber with Clover Field Wildlife Care. She also has her own education permit with the Ohio Division of Wildlife. She cares for her own wildlife ambassadors such as the groundhogs and opossums who are featured in many of The Wilderness Center's programs. Krista came to work at The Wilderness Center in 2014, after falling in love with the place while attending its Ohio Certified Volunteer Naturalist program.
Alex is TWC’s land steward. He spends most of his working time at TWC’s satellite preserves. His tasks
include ecological monitoring and management, trail maintenance and upkeep, and maintaining public
relations and TWC land holdings associates.
Alex has been a volunteer for The Wilderness Center since 2016, and a seasonal intern in 2018 and
2019. Graduating from Hocking College in 2016, Alex received his associate degree in Wildlife Resources
Management. In 2019 he graduated from West Virginia University as a Bachelor of Applied Sciences in
Wildlife and Fisheries Resources Management, with a minor in Conservation ecology.
Alex is an avid birder and fisherman and loves sharing his experiences and knowledge with others.
Katya has been with TWC for 3 years. She has recently earned three Associate Degrees of Applied Business in Accounting. She also holds a Bachelor Degree in Business Management from Eastern Europe. She has worked for 9 years in the non-for-profit sector prior to relocating to the U.S. She enjoys working at TWC because of its valuable mission that brings the community and nature closer together.
Bethany’s combination of knowledge and experience make her a valuable addition to the Foxfield Preserve. Bethany serves her community as an interfaith Spiritual Director and End-of-Life Midwife, helping to facilitate for others the intersection of conscious living and conscious dying. She is active in the death acceptance movement, inviting others to consider the dying process as an opening to become more present and loving, an occasion for profound healing, and an opportunity for participating fully in life. She is a Northeast Ohio Death Café hostess, member of Threshold Choir (a choral of woman who sing at the bedside of the dying), educator on conscious living and dying, and writer on final passing. She is honored to be able to further her sense of calling to this work at Foxfield Preserve, where she provides on-site support during interments and offers public presentations to community groups.
Barbara became a member of TWC in 2007 when her family moved to Ohio, at which time she began regularly attending events with her then three and five year old children. Since that time Barbara has viewed TWC as an essential support in raising her children with a love of Nature.
Barbara firmly believes in the power of nature to soothe and heal. Barbara has personally experienced the potential of the Foxfield Preserve to be a nurturing place for families, as she buried a family member in the Forest area in 2010.
Her professional career has covered projects in energy policy and research, government-led energy efficiency projects, and soil and water conservation. She has an interest in religious studies and anthropology. Barbara is an active volunteer: teacher and leader for a homeschool co-op, a poll worker, a member of the Education committee for The Wilderness Center, and costume manager for Ballet Wooster. She lives in Wooster with her husband and two children.
Astronomy Education Specialist
Robin joined TWC’s Education Staff in 2017 after many years as a volunteer and board member. She graduated from Mount Union with a BS in Physics and Astronomy. In addition to a long career in the energy industry, she served as Science Director at the McKinley Museum. She helped to found and nurture the Wilderness Center Astronomy Club for over 25 years. In particular, she contributed to many educational efforts including Astronomy Days, planetarium education, outreach programs and the building of TWC’s Astronomy Education Building.
Finance and HR Coordinator
Carolyn was hired as the Finance and HR Coordinator in February 2020 but actually started working with TWC on a subcontract basis since Oct 2019. Prior to joining TWC, Carolyn worked for REA & Associates in the Client Advisory Services department. While at REA, she served many clients in many different industries taking care of their accounting, payroll and tax needs. Carolyn received her Bachelor of Science in Accounting from the University of Akron and completed her CPA certification with the Accountancy Board of Ohio. Carolyn is a member of the Ohio Society of CPA’s and the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants. Outside of TWC, Carolyn enjoys running, reading and playing with her black labs.
I grew up in Somerdale, within Tuscarawas County. I was only seven-years-old when I learned a respect and love for nature. I spent my childhood getting "lost" in the woods and exploring the outdoors with my big sister. My sister and I enjoyed finding creatures and plants and bringing out the encyclopedias to learn more about what treasures we have found.
I received a bachelor of science in Sociology from Grand Canyon University. My educational background and professional background has aided in my ability to connect and communicate with individuals. I will use my degree to help connect and communicate the love for nature to our members.
Building and Grounds Maintenance Supervisor
Rich joined TWC in early May 2021 as Building and Grounds Maintenance Supervisor. Rich is a native Iowan, has formal education in Mechanical Engineering and work experience, with expertise in product development of mechanical drivetrain components/systems, through employment at The Timken Company, PEER Bearing Company and Meritor, Inc. Rich and spouse, Sandra, reside in Massillon, are proud parents of sons, Joseph and Matthew, and enjoy exploring the great outdoors through hiking and photography.
Paul has been working as a part time custodian at the Wilderness Center since 2007.
He lives in Beach City with his wife, Johanna, two children, Abbie and Jake, two dogs, Lucy and Roxy, and two cats, Rose and Bella.