Mission and History

Mission: Winnie Palmer Nature Reserve at Saint Vincent College fosters environmental stewardship through education, recreation, and conservation.



(Adapted from History of the Winnie Palmer Nature Reserve by Chris Rodell, 2007)

The story of the Winnie Palmer Nature Reserve began more than 25 years ago when two attorneys anticipated the development of the Route 30 corridor and purchased a large parcel of land near Route 30 and Route 981. In 1999, they were proven correct and the Route 30 corridor had expanded with grocery stores, chain restaurants, and many more businesses. Many in the community resented this development and the harm it was causing to small businesses in the area.

Winnie Palmer, the late wife of renowned golfer Arnold Palmer, was one of those individuals. Winnie had served on the Board of Directors for Saint Vincent College and had always loved looking across the parcel of land that was purchased with the intent to sell to developers. She thought that developing the land would ruin the scenery and the view of the Basilica and the Saint Vincent College Campus. She was also sensitive to the community and their wants. Winnie set out to preserve the beautiful view of Saint Vincent College and Archabbey across the open fields.

Winnie passed away in November 1999 before seeing her vision come to fruition. Her family continued to work on the project and instead of merely blocking the development of the land, they chose to highlight western Pennsylvania’s ecosystems. The Winnie Palmer Nature Reserve was incorporated on October 6, 2000, and fundraising began.

The 25.861 acres of land was purchased from the Nakles and Boyle families in 2001 and Saint Vincent Archabbey donated 25 acres adjacent to the property to ensure that the view of the campus was enhanced.

Additionally, Winnie Palmer adored Western Pennsylvania’s barns and how they added character to the landscape, so the barn, built in 1879 and then purchased by the monastery in 1919 and used for storage, was deconstructed and moved to serve as the Environmental Learning Barn, the focal point of the Winnie Palmer Nature Reserve. The barn is situated so that it is visible from the surrounding roadways, appearing to have always been there, yet having been noticed for the first time.

A stone patio behind the barn is at the base of the natural amphitheater and features an abstract sculpture designed by artist Julie Rotblatt-Amrany to reflect Winnie Palmer’s love of nature and reading. The weeping piece, which conveys twisting tree limbs embracing leaves of books, is intended to reflect Winnie Palmer’s steadfast support of Latrobe’s Adams Memorial Library.

Additional information about the barn, the sculpture, and the patio, as well as other landmarks on the reserve grounds, can be found here.