[Mission] We promote the sustainable use of the earth’s resources through education, demonstration, and research.

[Vision] We inspire and challenge individuals and communities to achieve ecologically sustainable lifestyles to secure a sustainable future for all life on earth.

How do we do this? We educate children in our 130 acre outdoor classroom through interactive, hands on sustainability and nature-based programming for schools and other groups. We partner with businesses, universities, and other non-profits to teach the principles of sustainability. We demonstrate this ‘green’ lifestyle by giving tours of our own Sustainable Living Demonstration Home that is powered by solar power and geothermal, applying strict green practices for our offices, and many other ways!

Our Founders


[Founders] Jim & Helen Cope

They were passionate stewards of the environment and educators of college and high school students. In 1992, they transformed their farm into Cope Environmental Center to teach others about leading a sustainable life.  During their years of teaching, Jim at Earlham College and Helen at Centerville Junior-Senior High School, the property functioned as 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.

[Founder] Francis Parks 


He was a dedicated botanist, arborist, and conservationist who worked tirelessly for organizations such as Earlham College and Hayes Arboretum. He joined Jim & Helen’s in starting Cope Environmental Center.

[Friend of CEC] Gertrude “Lucky” Ward


She (above) forever changed the CEC property with her gift of 70 acres of beautiful land in 1997 including her homestead, immediately adjacent to the original Cope family property. Her early 1900’s farmhouse became CEC’s Sustainable Living Demonstration Home in 2005.

[Friend of CEC] Miss Sally Reahard


She (above) 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.

Timeline of Events


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.


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.


CEC 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 size to 102 acres.


This trail has a diverse collection of pines, spruces, larches, cedars and firs from around the world making it one of regional significance. The Grand Opening of CEC conifer trail was celebrated on May 5, 2002 and it continues to offer an enjoyable hike. In all there are 15 genera and 55 species on the Jim Cope Conifer Trail.


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. Lucky Ward’s 1900’s farmhouse was dedicated as the Sustainable Living Demonstration Home.


Sustainable Living Demonstration Home completed with a new energy star roof, environmentally friendly James Hardie fiber cement siding, wind turbine and solar panels, on-demand water heater, geothermal system, and native plantings such as butterfly garden filled with milkweed. The home is presently being rented out and available for tours.


Indiana’s first nature center network was formed to celebrate and plan conservation projects for Indiana’s 200th Birthday celebration. The BNCN (Bicentennial Nature Center Network) met every first Wednesday of each month through teleconference and held its first summit on September 24th at Indiana State Dunes National Park. The next summit will be held at Earlham College and CEC’s new education center on Saturday, June 18th, 2016.

On April 10th, CEC celebrated a ground breaking ceremony for a new sustainable, education center in conjunction with Helen Cope’s 95th Birthday Celebration.

Helen Cope Helps Break Ground for New Education & Orientation Bu