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Jeremy Keith Oakley Preserve

Following the untimely loss of her son Jeremy, Kathy Oakley donated this land to Sycamore Land Trust to preserve the woods her son cherished. As a young boy, this upland forest, with its stream and rich diversity of trees, wildflowers, and wildlife, was his playground. Kathy wished to honor Jeremy’s memory by providing a place for people—especially children—to understand the fragility and value of nature “as a haven to all spirits (to) enrich the human soul.” A mowed trail heads through the front field and into the woods, passing a memorial sign to Kenny Long, Josh Mooney, Justin Mundy, and Jeremy Oakley.

A message from Kathy Oakley:

Growing up on the end of North Jackson Street in Bedford allowed me to enjoy fields, woods, and a stream with a waterfall during my childhood. Aspirations to help my son enjoy the wonders of the woods motivated me to work hard, even before he was born, to provide a country setting in which to raise him.

My son Jeremy was carried into the woods on our Leesville property from the time he was an infant. He took his first faltering steps in the soft sand of the creek bed. As he grew, so did his adventurous spirit and curiosity. Frogs, salamanders, fox, deer, crawfish—all manner of life was examined and respected. Jeremy assisted me in marking our property with scents to confuse hunters’ dogs. Naming each tree, plant, or fungi became a game, and he quickly became my equal. No harm would come to any flora or fauna in this haven to all spirits, saved for enrichment of the human soul.

Reaching adulthood, he made his home on the property in Leesville, working tirelessly to manage the land and filling his spirit with the beauty surrounding him. My son knew that land and its creatures better than anyone. It was to be deeded to him on his 25th birthday, which he did not live to see.

After Jeremy’s death, I searched for a way to bring meaning to the loss and to ensure the land he loved would remain unspoiled… The assurance that the Jeremy Keith Oakley Nature Preserve will always remain natural for those who appreciate our earth is of great comfort to me. I implore others to see the benefits for themselves and the entire community and donate land to Sycamore. A tragedy does not have to occur for us to realize the fragility of our natural areas and the urgent need to protect them. The gifts of nature to a child who has never seen a large stand of woods or a rushing creek to play in…these are gifts that have no measure.

– Kathy Oakley, 2002

DIRECTIONS

  • From the intersection of SR 446 and US Hwy 50 east of Bedford, go 3.3 mi east on US 50 to Leesville Rd.
  • Turn right onto Leesville Rd and go 1.3 mi. Park at the gate on your left.
  • County: Lawrence
  • Features: mature forest, quiet creek valley, spring wildflowers
  • Donated by: Kathy Oakley
  • Acres: 15
  • Year acquired: 2002
  • Trail: 0.3 mile, rugged