Big Trees Forest Preserve


1913 - 2006

Learn about a biography of John Ripley Forbes

Read a review of this biography by the National Science Teachers Association.

John Ripley Forbes is recognized as the nations foremost authority on the development and organization of natural science centers and wildlife sanctuaries for youth. He has personally founded 24 centers and 15 tree, plant and wildlife sanctuaries totaling more than 3,500 acres. As founder of the Natural Science for Youth Foundation, the oldest and most experienced organization of its kind, he has assisted 226 communities in 31 states. After moving to Atlanta in 1971, Forbes organized and established natural science centers such as the Outdoor Activity Center and the Chattahoochee Nature Center. In 1976 Forbes founded the nonprofit Southeast Land Preservation Trust to preserve Atlanta's increasingly scarce open space.

In January of 1989, John Ripley Forbes first learned of a beautiful forest in Sandy Springs about to be marketed as land suitable for a car dealership. Upon visiting the property he was awed by the beauty of the forest and felt it should be saved for use as an urban forest education center. He thought the large trees were so historic and inspiring, that immediate action was needed to preserve the forest for the enjoyment of future generations. Through a co-operative partnership with Southeast Land Preservation Trust, Fulton County, the State of Georgia and private citizens, a total of 30 acres of this forested land was purchased. For over a decade, Forbes has worked to develop and promote Big Trees Forest as a Tree, Plant and Wildlife Sanctuary and Urban Forest Education Center. Through his leadership, this special place has evolved as a model in urban forest preservation, management, stewardship and use. This special preserve is a living legacy to John Ripley Forbes commitment to conserving our natural heritage for future generations.

Learn more about John Ripley Forbes.

Charles S. Cochran
1946 - 2007

Charlie Cochran was the first Executive Director at Big Trees.  He was usually the first face people saw when they visited the forest and his enthusiasm was infectious.  He honed his trail building skills through his work with the Appalachian Trail Club and brought those considerable skills to Big Trees where he designed and built the trail system in the preserve.  

Charlie also served on the Board of Directors of the Southeast Land Preservation Trust where he worked tirelessly to inspire countless people to appreciate natural areas and volunteer their time and energy to maintain and improve these natural treasures.