COVID-19 UPDATE: The Harris Center building will be closed to visitors until further notice. Our trails and grounds remain open.

Harris Center History

Frequently Asked Questions

How did the Harris Center get its start? Has it always been a land trust? Just how long has Meade Cadot been around, anyway? Get answers to the most common Harris Center questions about the Harris Center’s history here!

Beginnings

  • When was the Harris Center founded, and by whom?

    The Harris “Foundation” was first incorporated in 1970. Eleanor Briggs founded the organization (named after her cat!) as an environmental education center, with the hope of getting people to “fall in love with where we live.” The organization was housed in a summer home once owned by Eleanor’s grandparents, which she bought back, along with the surrounding land, from a developer in 1968. Eleanor solicited her friend Cecil Lyon to be the organization’s first director.

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  • Who was the first Harris Center staff member?

    John Kulish was hired as the first staff member in 1971. His wife Aino also served on the Board. Together, they began to lead rigorous hikes which quickly became very popular. They co-wrote Bobcats Before Breakfast in 1969.

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  • When did the Harris Center get its official name?

    In 1974, anthropologist Margaret Mead was brought in to give a lecture for the Harris Foundation, attracting 1,100 attendees to the ConVal gym. In a discussion about speaker fees, she pointed out the fallacy of calling the organization a foundation, since foundations give out money rather than receive it. Shortly thereafter, the Harris “Foundation” was changed to the Harris “Center for Conservation Education.” You can read a more detailed version of that story here.

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  • When was the first "Harris Hearsay" published?

    The first Harris Center newsletter, dubbed the Harris Hearsay, was published in 1978. Electronic copies of the Hearsay (2012-present) can be downloaded here.

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  • When did Meade Cadot begin his long tenure at the Harris Center?

    Meade Cadot became the Harris Center’s Executive Director in 1975. In 2009, he turned over the reins to Laurie Bryan, and became our Senior Naturalist (“emphasis on the ‘Senior'”). He officially retired in 2012 and now serves as Naturalist Emeritus.

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  • When did Janet Altobello join the staff?

    Janet Altobello joined the staff in 1989, and she has shepherded our school-based environmental education program ever since!

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  • When did Susie Spikol join the staff?

    Susie Spikol joined our teaching faculty in 1994 after working as a camp counselor for several summers. She served as camp director for years before becoming our Community Programs Director.

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  • When was the Harris Center building renovated?

    The Harris Center building underwent a major renovation in 2004 to better serve its use as an environmental education center, and to better reflect our commitment to sustainability. During the renovation, we installed composting toilets, a wood pellet boiler, and solar panels, and used recycled, natural, or renewable materials wherever possible. You can learn more about the features of our green building here.

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  • Who has directed the Harris Center over the years?

    The Harris Center has only had three directors in its 50-year history! Meade Cadot served as Executive Director from 1975-2009, Laurie Bryan from 2009-2012, and Jeremy Wilson, from 2012-present.

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Camp & Education Programs

  • What is Wol’s Nest?

    Wol’s Nest was the Harris Center summer camp from 1975 through 2015 — named for Owl, who misspelled the sign on his home (“Owl’s Nest”) in the classic A.A. Milne book, Winnie the Pooh. The Harris Center still offers summer camps for children from preschool through middle school, although we no longer call them “Wol’s Nest.”

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  • When did the Harris Center's environmental education program begin?

    The Harris Center’s school-based education program was launched in 1972-1973, starting with ConVal class field trips led by John Kulish. The Harris Center’s first professional development workshop for classroom teachers was offered at that time, as well, and focused on local wildlife.

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  • When did the education program grow into what it is today?

    David Blair joined the staff in 1977 to help lead the education program, eventually expanding the program into 14 schools. John Kulish retired in 1982, at which point Marian Baker joined the staff as High School Program Coordinator. In 1985, the school programs expanded again, with Diana Reno in 8 Keene schools, Mike Zettek in 13 Conval schools, and Marian Baker in 3 high schools. Today, our team of teacher-naturalists works with 3,000 students in 30 Monadnock Region schools every year.

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Land & Trails

  • When did the Harris Center start building trails?

    The trails network was initiated by a group of volunteers in 1982.

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  • When did the Harris Center start accepting conservation easements?

    The Harris Center began preparations for accepting conservation easements in 1982.

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  • When did Spoonwood Pond become part of the SuperSanctuary?

    1985.

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Conservation Research

  • When did the Harris Center begin offering citizen science projects?

    Although the Harris Center has been involved with local Christmas Bird Count circles since 1973, our citizen science programming took a huge leap forward in 2010, when the Ashuelot Valley Environmental Observatory (AVEO) — a Keene-based non-profit organization founded in 2003 to connect community volunteers and professional researchers through a variety of place-based citizen science projects — became the citizen science arm of the Harris Center.

    Brett Amy Thelen, AVEO’s Science Director, also joined the Harris Center at this time, bringing several of AVEO’s longstanding citizen science programs, including the Salamander Crossing Brigades and Project Nighthawk, into the Harris Center fold.

    The Harris Center officially added “conservation research” to its mission in 2014.

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  • When did the Keene State College conservation internship program begin at the Harris Center?

    The Harris Center-Keene State College conservation internship program launched in the summer of 2013.

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50th Anniversary

  • How can I shop for a commemorative shirt, hat, book, or other swag?

    In celebration of our 50th Anniversary, the Harris Center is offering a variety of commemorative merchandise — shirts, hats, books, tote bags, and a special bobcat sticker created by local artist Hannah Ellingwood. You can see what’s available here; merch may be purchased at the Harris Center office Monday through Friday, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., at select 50th Anniversary events, and by phone with a credit card. To have an item shipped to you, please call Miles Stahmann at (603) 525-3394.

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