The Barbara J. Mapp Aviary Education Center

By Charley Hankla
As we all who love Radnor Lake know, there are many special moments that we remember as we walk, run, roll or bike through the Natural Area. I can recall my very first hike on the Lake Trail at Radnor Lake — I saw a red fox! I haven’t seen one since that early Saturday morning in 1986 and just don’t get to spend much time on the trails, as I am one of those ‘dog people’ relegated to walking on the road. Another memorable event was the day I was swooped by an eagle! I recall it vividly — it literally flew right over my head and I was spellbound watching this magnificent bird fly across the lake and land in a tree. Fortunately there were other people in the vicinity who saw it and actually verified it for a newspaper report.

Photograph by Charlie Tallent
Photograph by Charlie Tallent

Well, lots of miles have been walked in those intervening years and several eagles have come and gone at Radnor Lake. It seems that no matter how much additional land you generous donors help us add to the Natural Area, we have yet to land a resident population of eagles. That is about to change!
This fall the Barbara J. Mapp Aviary Education Center at Radnor Lake will welcome all of our friends and visitors to see eagles up close and personal, as well as our resident Barred Owl, Red Shouldered Hawk and Red Tailed Hawk and a few other raptors, yet to be identified. Friends of Radnor Lake (FORL) and the Mapp Foundation have joined together to build this Aviary for educational programs that will be unlike any other facility in Middle Tennessee. The vision for this project came from Head Ranger Steve Ward and the impetus came about three years ago in the form of a grant from the Mapp Foundation, which has been matched by FORL and other generous donors who have heard about the project. In addition, several individuals, companies and institutions have blessed us with generous donations of materials and labor that we could not have afforded to buy on the open market. Were it not for Nashville Electric Service, Nashville Wire Products, Stansell Electric Company, John Carpenter, Centric Architecture, and other vendors who have given us favorable pricing, and the many volunteers who have spent their time on site, we would not be as far along as we are.
We are in the home stretch of construction, but as with any project, especially one that is as unique as this one, the Aviary still is in need of many items, specifically electricity, lighting and water which are still not yet funded, that are needed to make the day-today operations of the facility more efficient.
It will take time, talent and money to sustain this project going into the future. While we can conceive it, design it, fund it (or at least most of it — hint hint), and build it, we now need to run it and run it correctly. We will need your help over the years to sustain this wonderful addition to the Natural Area. Steve Ward has recruited a new Ranger from Reelfoot Lake – Dustin Crowell – who has over 500 hours of training with eagles. He will be working with Jesse Germeraad, Sam King and Leslie Ann Rawlings who all have experience teaching the public about the birds at Radnor Lake over the last 13 years. The new Aviary will broaden the educational component of what the Park offers our visitors. Let’s all support the Ranger’s efforts and help the Barbara J. Mapp Aviary Education Center be all it can be.
Will there really be an eagle at the Aviary? Yes! — and there may be more than one. We are in the process of formalizing a partnership arrangement with the American Eagle Foundation which, has been in operation for 25 years ago and is headquartered at Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, TN. Their management and two of their board members visited the site and consulted with us on finishing details for the 60’ x 80’ x 30’ tall eagle aviary. They will provide educational materials for our interpretive signage, Visitors Center display and most important of all, likely will provide us with at least two eagles, which are unable to be released into the wild, for permanent residency at Radnor Lake.
Mike Baron, Issac Okoreeh-baah and Norm Miede meet to discuss ADA improvements at Barbara J. Mapp Aviary Education Center. Photograph by Steve Ward
Mike Baron, Issac Okoreeh-baah and Norm Miede meet to discuss ADA improvements at Barbara J. Mapp Aviary Education Center. Photograph by Steve Ward

With any construction project, you never can predict exactly when it will be finished and ready for occupancy (or visitors), and the Barbara J. Mapp Aviary Education Center is no exception. The best place to check on when the aviary will officially be open will be at
While you are there, please consider making a donation to complete work on the Aviary. As you will soon see, with help from our partner, the Barbara J. Mapp Foundation, FORL has been a solid steward of the time, talent and funds invested in the new Aviary Education Center. The Board of FORL can’t wait for you to see the completion of this exciting project.