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Gary Valen

Gary first visited Meadowcreek in 1984 when he became the new Dean of Students at Hendrix College in Conway, Arkansas. Over the years he brought Hendrix students to Meadowcreek for quiet but meaningful discussions about campus issues or as volunteers for various work projects. In 1989 he and his wife Betsy Lyman accompanied Meadowcreek staff and selected high school honor students on an exchange program with students from the Soviet Union. Betsy produced an Arkansas public educational television documentary about the trip.

In 1990 Gary joined the Meadowcreek Board of Directors and was elected president. Under his leadership, he instituted a merger with The Kerr Center for Sustainable Agriculture and later with The Humane Society of the United States. Gary joined The HSUS as the Director of Sustainable Agriculture and kept Meadowcreek as one of his assignments. 


Meadowcreek became the Midwest meeting place for the HSUS and the organization also placed approximately 1,200 acres of the property into a permanent wildlife habitat area protected by their Wild Life Land Trust division. That protective status continues to this day. In 2005, new management at HSUS decided to end its use of the remaining 400 acres and buildings. Gary still represented Meadowcreek so he was given the task to find another nonprofit to take it over. Instead, he decided to create a new nonprofit organization, called Meadowcreek Inc., with its own board of directors. 

The Board decided to continue its original mission and use the land and facilities as a way to demonstrate how people could live and thrive in a rural setting in harmony with the environment. Individuals, families, and other groups have tried a variety of enterprises in the valley. While there were various levels of success, nothing advanced to the level of providing sustainable revenues to maintain and improve the buildings. Rumors circulated that Meadowcreek was extinct.​

In 2019, Gary moved back to the valley, and together with dedicated residents and the Board of Directors, a renewal plan was instituted. He negotiated the sale of the Meadowcreek property to The Nature Conservancy of Arkansas at a bargain price with the agreement that Meadowcreek, Inc. can continue operating in the valley. With that agreement, one of Gary's long-held goals was achieved; the valley is now under permanent protection by two national conservation organizations. 

Sparked by the enthusiasm of its residents, board members, and friends, Meadowcreek is now a place of renewed activities. Concerts in the barn, a steady booking of AirBnB guests at the Natural Lodge, an operational sawmill, a public library, and a food distribution program propels Meadowcreek into being a real asset to the region. Gary recently remarked, “My dream was we could hold on to the Meadowcreek valley until the time people would once again see the natural world as a place of renewal and inspiration.” Meadowcreek is entering that phase right now. 

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