“To promote the conservation of natural resources through education, community outreach and personal experience.”
When Norma Johnson was a young girl, she saw the beauty and tranquility of natural areas. Growing up a farmer’s daughter in the Brandywine Valley she noticed that forests, meadows and wildlife habitat were beginning to disappear with urban sprawl. She felt the need to protect natural areas so that future generations would have a place to ramble, reflect, learn and enjoy.
As a young adult, Norma Johnson saw the beauty and impact of natural areas for all to enjoy. While farming and learning she realized that as the years go on highways and people would swell into the Brandywine Valley. She saw the need that “acres of trees, ponds, and wildlife would be most refreshing for people to wander over now and in the future”. With this vision and the efforts of the community the 303 acre Norma Johnson Center Conservation Center and Nature Preserve came to be for now and future generations.
In 1989, Norma Johnson donated 63 acres to the Tuscarawas County Soil and Water Conservation District (Tusc SWCD). Much work was needed to prepare the property for use due to the coal mining that had taken place through the years. With community sponsors and dedicated volunteers roads, trails, bridges, and conservation practices were put into place on the non reclaimed strip ground to make the land available for public trail use. Programs were developed and school groups were invited to come to the Norma Johnson Conservation Center and learn about non-point and point source pollution, soil erosion, dry dams and grassy waterways, acid mine drainage, food plots, silt fences, forest practices and so much more.
After Norma’s death, her daughter Susan Covey followed through with her mothers wishes and transferred 240 acres to the Tuscarawas County Commissioners in September 1998. This land transfer included the yellow pole barn where Norma lived with her sheep, the reclaimed land stretching back to the Tusc SWCD property and over 80 acres on the southside of SR 39 west of Gasser Road.
In 2001, the Conservation Center and Nature Preserve with similar goals and objectives, joined forces to create the Norma Johnson Center. In 2021, the Tuscarawas County Soil and Water Conservation District gave their 63 acres to the Tuscarawas County Commissioners to give entire ownership of the 303 acre retreat to the Commissioners. This property is overseen by the Tuscarawas County Parks Department who work hard to make this hidden treasure available to the public now and in the future.