It is with great sorrow that we share the news of the passing of Elizabeth "Babs" Conant, visionary and founder of Ivy Creek. There would be no Ivy Creek Natural Area or Ivy Creek Foundation without Babs.
In 1975, Babs was canoeing the reservoir as she often did, when she noticed stakes and surveyor's tape along the shoreline. She borrowed money from her mother's life savings, purchased the property, which was called River View Farm, and then arranged with The Nature Conservancy to purchase and hold it with the hope that local government would ultimately be able to buy it from them. The new interim name for the property became the Rann Preserve.
In Babs' own words, "From that point on, one thing led to another. A small committee formed. We used Work Days to clean up the land, empty the barn, take down a shed, haul old appliances to the dump. We had conversations with neighbors. We started plant and bird inventories and had the advice of university folk from several departments.
"In time, the 'Rann Preserve' was a viable entity, and over the course of several years, the vision grew into Ivy Creek Natural Area, thanks to the remarkable cooperation between city, county, individuals and a raft of volunteers."
Babs left for New York State in 1978, but her boundless energy had set the wheels in motion. Later that year the City of Charlottesville and the County of Albemarle took title to the land (which they still own jointly), and it became the Ivy Creek Natural Area. The "raft of volunteers" recruited even more volunteers, and in 1979, formed Ivy Creek Foundation.
Forty years of educational outreach about natural history and environmental conservation education continue at Ivy Creek Natural Area. The cultural history of the property as a unique example of a post-Emancipation African American family's success at farming and social prominence is interpreted enthusiastically.
Thousands upon thousands of school children have toured, adults have attended programs, and people of all ages have come to enjoy the serenity of the Ivy Creek Natural Area, and it is all thanks to the extraordinary Babs Conant. Our corner of the world is a better place because she was here.
Photo: Babs Conant pulling up fencing in the 1970s (photographer unknown)