A true Westcave icon, John is a member of a rarefied group of unsurpassed naturalists in Texas. He has been the sole preserve director and lead educator since Westcave’s beginnings in 1976. John, together with his wife Brenda, raised a wonderful family in the “double wide” mobile home that also served as the visitor’s center. He began his work at the Preserve by hauling more than 100 full-size garbage bags of trash out of the canyon. The trash had been brought and left there by decades of trespassers who were literally “loving Westcave to death”!
Years later, when he had accomplished astonishing restoration and protection for the Preserve, John set out to build an environmental education program by traveling to area schools encouraging teachers to bring their class rooms out to see Westcave. Our weekday offerings now attract more than 6,000 children each year. John also oversaw the construction of our Warren Skaaren Environmental Learning Center, staff headquarters and residence in the early part of this decade and the development of a field-based program for middle school students
In 2008, we created the John F. Ahrns Award for Environmental Education, presented at our annual Celebration of Children and Nature, to recognize exemplary natural science educators in our community. Past recipients include educators Danna Keyburn, Redeemer Lutheran School and David Matthews, Small Middle School.