History of Jeffers Bend
Environmental Center and Botanical Gardens

North Fork Little River Committee

The Pennyrile RC&D Council formed the North Fork Little River Committee in 1990 which continues today to promote recreation and tourism opportunities along the river.

Mayor Wally Bryan, being aware of the North Fork Little River Committee efforts to increase recreation and tourism activities along the river, in the spring of 1995, convened a meeting with Penny Chewning, Doug Erbeck, Charles Turner, and himself to talk about saving the old Hopkinsville Water Treatment Plant from demolition for environmental education activities.

In August 1997, after several meetings of the North Fork Little River Committee and Pride, Inc., the groups agreed the water treatment plant should be developed in memory of former Hopkinsville Mayor Sherrill L. Jeffers, with the name, Sherry Jeffers Environmental Center and Botanical Gardens.

Kentucky Design Assistance Team

Spearheaded by Pennyrile RC&D and Pride, Inc., the Kentucky Design Assistance Team, a group of architects, visited Hopkinsville on March 26-29, 1998, to provide technical assistance for buildings and grounds at the old Hopkinsville Water Treatment Plant and downtown Hopkinsville. In exchange for the technical service of 5-6 architects, the local sponsors provided lodging, place to work, meals, working materials, a helicopter, a reception, film and film processing, transportation, etc. Scott Perkins and his team of architects left RC&D and Pride with a blueprint for environmental center development before leaving town on March 29, 1998. Estimated cost of architect’s visit $6,000 - $8,000.

To keep focus for the effort, the Jeffers Bend Concept Plan was developed by Pennyrile RC&D and Pride in 1999, considering the ideas offered by Kentucky Design Assistance Team in 1998. The committee consisted of Penny Chewning, Jenny Kilijian, Kathy Redd, Ann Petrie, Louise Adams, Sidney Smithson and Charles Turner.

Several months after deciding to develop the water treatment plant into an environmental center, and naming it Sherry Jeffers Environmental Center, Jenny Moss suggested, and interested parties agreed, to rename the center, Jeffers Bend Environmental Center and Botanical Gardens.

Jeffers Bend Steering Committee

On October 17, 2000, the Pennyrile RC&D Council mailed letters to 100 plus individuals asking them to become members of the Jeffers Bend Steering Committee. About 50 people responded positively with the first steering committee meeting being held on November 9, 2000, with thirty people in attendance. They were as follows:

Rochelle Anderson, Gary Haddock Jerry Rorie, Kevin Atwood, Scott Johnson, Grace Rucker, Cornelia Belle, Henrietta Kemp, Carol Sanecki, Patricia Bowden, J. D. Lingenfelter, Maggie Selvidge, Spurgeon Bozeman, Jennifer Maddux, Sara Shepherd, Penny Chewning, Jean McGee, Matt Snorton, Marty Dawson, Jenny Moss, Charles Turner, Doug Erbeck, Faye Myers, Glynn Ward, Teresa Goodaker, Lucky Pittman, Mark Withers, Anna Carol Guffy, Jim Roberts, Linda Wood, and Jodi Yin.

At the first meeting the following eight committees with chairperson were formed:

Committee: Chairperson
1) Gifts:Charles Turner
2) Publicity: Scott Johnson
3) Special Events: Sara Shepherd
4) Trails: Doug Erbeck
5) Budget: Mark Withers
6) Curriculum: Patricia Bowden
7) Buildings and Grounds: Penny Chewning
8) Gardens: Carol Saneck


The Pennyrile RC&D Council secured $10,000 through the Kentucky Department for Local Government, allowing Gary Burks Construction Company to install 3,300 feet of compacted gravel trail in July, 2000. Over $2,000 from USDA-NRCS along with over $3,400 in local donations was used to construct an additional 2,400 feet of trail. The Pennyrile RC&D Council secured $10,000 from the Kentucky Department for Local Government for Burks Construction to install 2,500 feet of compacted gravel trail in July, 2002 and a gravel parking lot in August, 2003. The RC&D Council secured $75,000 in TEA-21 federal money that was matched on a 80/20 basis by the City of Hopkinsville to construct about two miles of compacted gravel trails along North Fork of Little River, CSX Railroad, and Metcalfe Lane at Jeffers Bend Environmental Center.

The garden committee held its first meeting on December 2, 2000, to walk the grounds in the initial phase of work to screen unsightly areas. The committee said it would focus on native plant species, the idea being to attract state and federal monies. After several meetings over the years, the committee established the first formal garden in the spring of 2002 followed with individual gardens by Rhonda Johnston and Diana Shelton. Penny Chewning secured labor through Christian County Jail to plant over 100 trees, 100 shrubs and various grasses and flowers at several locations from 2003-2006. New garden areas were established and others enhanced through the leadership and labor of Faye Vyhnal, committee chair, and Anne Casey, Director of Pride Inc. For the past year or so, David and Susan Chiles have taken the committee to even higher heights by establishing a children's garden, butterfly garden, and establishing new gardens, while maintaining old ones.

Environmental Education Sessions
The Jeffers Bend Curriculum Committee, working in cooperation with the Pennyrile RC&D office, schedules days in the spring and fall in which schools have the opportunity to visit Jeffers Bend for natural resource classes. Since the first classes started attending in 2001, more than 6,800 students from more than 100 schools have attended.

Educational Materials

  • Thousands of dollars in educational materials focusing on birds, wildflowers, trees, shrubs, etc. were secured through Pennyrile RC&D and the Kentucky Division of Forestry. The materials are being used to assist presenters with imparting hands-on information to K-12 students and teachers in Kentucky's twenty-four most western counties.
  • Under the leadership of Patricia Bowden, the curriculum committee assembled educational materials in binders to assist presenters and teachers in delivering core curriculum information to K-12 students.

The Buildings and Grounds

Welcome Center and Museum
Under the leadership of Lorin Boggs, the first major work on the welcome center and museum occurred in the summer of 1999 when about 30 people from the Hopkinsville Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints removed deteriorated boards and painted the exterior.

  • Under the leadership of Penny Chewning, Director of Pride Inc., and Jeffers Bend Steering Committee members, the following tasks have been accomplished over the past three years: new metal roof, (purchased by HWEA) heating/cooling system, several new windows (donated by Karl Prunitsch), walls and ceiling sheet rocked or plastered, removed old carpet to finish wooden floors, upgraded wiring and plumbing, installed new door locks, upgraded bathroom, reinforced foundation, installed kitchen cabinets (donated by Dan and Betty Thomas), installed new lightning, installed kitchen appliances, furniture, computer system, rugs and prints on the walls.
  • Under the leadership of Marlin Anderson, porch railing and wooden steps were installed. Some painting and art work were performed by Anne Casey.
  • In 2011, window blinds were installed, as the Pennyrile RC&D Council made the museum its new office.

Laboratory Building

  • Laboratory building cleaned, floors and walls painted, wall cabinets installed, restroom for women installed; secured through donation or purchase, refrigerator, freezer, over 200 chairs, 6 tables, two displays, TV and VCR, microwave, flip chart, an aquarium, etc. Labor provided through four main sources, inmates at Christian County Jail and WIA students through Christian County Schools and Pennyrile Area Development District, Pride Inc, and Jeffers' Bend Steering Committee. Henrietta Kemp secured a $500 grant through the Pennyroyal Arts Council in which Ricky Deel, a local artist, and students painted the water cycle mural on the the north end of the building.
  • In 2011, blinds were installed on remaining windows and doors.

Small Two Story Building

  • In 2003, inmates along with young people working through the Summer Youth Program cleaned debris from the building, replaced deteriorated boards, and painted the interior. The exterior was painted by the summer youth group in 2002. In 2005, members from the First Methodist Church established electrical service to the building. In 2007, the Pennyrile RC&D Council secured an $8,000 grant from the Honorable Order of Kentucky Colonels to renovate the building for two much needed classrooms. The labor to perform the work was provided by Jim Wisby, Marlin Anderson, Warren Cornell and a trustee from Christian County Jail, at a cost of $5,049.13 and a total expense of $13,061.54.

The Pavilion

  • The Hopkinsville Optimist Club allocated funds in 2002 to construct a pavilion at the trail head in memory of former club president, Bill Davis. The pavilion was completed in May, 2003, at an estimated cost of $5,700. A memorial plaque was installed in 2006 recognizing Bill Davis as a strong supporter of the Hopkinsville Optimist Club.
  • Thanks to closeout funds from the club disbandment, the pavilion received significant upgrading in 2011.

The Amphitheater

  • Lewis Bradley worked with his son, Parker Bradley and other Boy Scouts, to construct an amphitheater along the walking trail and North Fork of Little River.

Canoe Access

  • In 2003, Mike Johnson and the City of Hopkinsville Street Department constructed a canoe access ramp just above the waterfall on North Fork Little Rive at Vine Street. One to two more structures will be installed on the river over the next several years.

Screening Berm

  • The Pennyrile RC&D Council secured a $9,000 grant from the Kentucky Division of Forestry in 2001 to help construct an earthen berm to screen a section of masonry property to the west. La Petite Fleur Garden Club donated $500 for trees, shrubs and other plant materials.

Significant Meetings and Events

Since the first meeting to form the Jeffers Bend Steering Committee on November 9, 2000, a number of meetings have been held at Jeffers' Bend to address the issues of fundraising activities, trail development and maintenance, establishing gardens, renovating buildings, curriculum development, Take Kids Fishing Day, berm construction for screening, need for additional equipment, mowing, construction of pavilion, construction of parking lot, Jeffers Bend - A Natural Experience Day/NatureFest, environmental education sessions for area students and adults, etc.

Jeffers Bend - A Natural Experience
Under the leadership of Linda Wood, the trails committee worked with Jeffers Bend Steering Committee members and other interested persons to host a special event on Saturday, October 17, 2003, entitled: Jeffers' Bend - A Natural Experience. The event involved the following activities: Canoeing, Bicycle Safety, Interpretive Walk in the Woods, Two Old Fisherman Play, a puppet show, tour of the welcome center/museum, a video, and outdoor skills. The cost for access was $5 per car and $10 per bus load in advance and $8 and $15 respectively the day of the event. Events were held in 2004 to 2011 under the title - NatureFest.

Take Kids Fishing Day
The North Fork of Little River Committee held the first Take Kids Fishing event on the river at the environmental center in May, 1999, with events every year since. The first event attracted about 150 kids and 100 adults. Today more than 600 kids and 600 adults participate. Take Kids Fishing is supported by over 60 businesses, groups and organizations. The kids and adults are served lunch, the kids are provided T-shirts and prizes are presented for smallest fish, largest fish and most fish in several age categories.

Support and Services

Clerical Services

  • Since the beginning of Jeffers Bend Environmental Center, clerical services, including typing, mailing, minutes, etc, have been proved through USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service and Pennyrile RC&D Council. For special events like Take Kids Fishing Day, Jeffers Bend - A Natural Experience Day, flyers, etc, were created by Jenny Moss, Hopkinsville Water Environment Authority, copied and distributed by the Christian County Board of Education, Pennyrile RC&D, Hopkinsville-Christian County Recreation Department and/or Pennyrile Allied Community Services. For several years, Henrietta Kemp led the creative marketing with tools like trayliners for schools, restaurants, etc. to better promote Take Kids Fishing., NatureFest and Christmas at the Bend. In 2010, Robin Charles began serving as Chair, Publicity Committee.

Technical Services

  • Technical services to lay out walking trail, pavilion, parking lot, one acre lake site, earthen berm, etc. were provided by USDA-natural Resources Conservation Service in cooperation with Pennyrile RC&D Council, Inc.

Pride Agreement with HWEA

  • Pride, Inc. signed an agreement with the Hopkinsville Water Environment Authority in 2001, taking administrative responsibilities for Jeffers Bend development to pay utility bills, insurance, operating and maintenance costs, etc, through one of its partner, the Pennyrile Resource Conservation and Development (RC&D) Council, Inc.

Giving to Jeffers Bend

  • The Gifts Committee initiated giving to Jeffers Bend in 2000. To date, over $130,000 has been gifted by individuals, businesses, or groups and an additional $80,000 in grants.