Karen Babcock

Karen Babcock is the new Executive Director of the Friends of the WNC Nature Center. 

The Board of the Friends of the WNC Nature Center welcomes Karen Babcock as the new Executive Director. Babcock has a solid history of nonprofit leadership, serving at the director level at Folkmoot USA and Maryland’s Ladew Topiary Gardens. 

The Friends provides the resources to support high quality growth of the WNC Nature Center and its efforts to educate the public about the natural history and ecology of the Southern Appalachians.

Working in nonprofit leadership for the majority of her career, Babcock most recently served as executive director for the Waynesville-based Folkmoot USA. During her 6-year tenure, she cultivated relationships with elected officials, donors and community members to increase fundraising and corporate sponsorships and facilitated a $1.3 million facility gift to the organization. Prior to moving to Western North Carolina, Babcock served as Associate Director and public relations director for Maryland’s Ladew Topiary Gardens. While at Ladew, she managed the 50-acre Nature Walk, created a corporate sponsorship program, rebranded the organization, and served as curator for the historic house and collections. A master’s degree in human resource development provided her substantial tools for developing organizations.

Professional history aside, Babcock’s greatest passion is nature.

“Daily interaction with native flora and fauna has always been a constant source of education, wonder and solace,” she said. “Serving and saving the wildlife of Western North Carolina is an absolute dream job. With the WNC Nature Center as a spectacular resource for all of us, we can learn to influence positive human interaction with native species — from understanding the value of snakes to preserving the critically endangered red wolf.

“It is particularly important that The Nature Center focuses on equal educational opportunities for children and adults,” Babcock said. “People smile and wave when the white Nature Center van, covered with images of the red wolf, drives through their town.” 

The Educational Outreach van is piloted by an educator who takes Nature Center programming to nine WNC counties throughout the year.

The Nature Center hosts the deaf community through Deaf Awareness Day, from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 18. In these ways, and others, the Nature Center works to reach all of WNC communities.

With the upcoming opening of the Nature Center’s newly constructed front entrance followed closely by the addition of the new red panda exhibit this fall, there is much to celebrate and share with the Western North Carolina community.

“The Nature Center is on the precipice of great growth, increased educational opportunities and has developed into a regional centerpiece that reflects Asheville’s close ties to the natural Appalachian environment,” Babcock said.

The Friends’ mission is to support the programs, facilities and the residents of the Western North Carolina Nature Center, which showcases the fauna and flora of the southern Appalachian region. The WNC Nature Center connects people with the animals and plants of the Southern Appalachian Mountain region by inspiring appreciation, nurturing understanding, and advancing conservation of the region’s rich biodiversity.

For information on the Friends of the WNC Nature Center, or to join the Friends and support future projects, visit www.wildwnc.org.

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