To the tune of “This little light of mine,” more than 100 protesters marched through downtown Louisville chanting “My community and I, we’re gonna save Bernheim.”
Friday’s protests were an effort to raise awareness about a pair of infrastructure projects that threaten to damage conservation lands Bernheim Research Forest and Arboretum acquired in 2018.
“We’re facing two threats like never. We’re facing a threat from a proposed LG&E pipeline and we’re also facing a threat form a proposed interstate bypass,” said Andrew Berry, Bernheim conservation director.
The first, and more immediate project, is a 12-inch underground pipeline that would traverse three-quarters of a mile across the 494-acre Cedar Grove Wildlife Corridor under an existing electric transmission line easement.
The Kentucky Public Service Commission has already approved the pipeline to serve communities in Northern Bullitt County, but Bernheim and a handful of other landowners have so far refused to sell to the pipeline’s owner, Louisville Gas and Electric.
LG&E says it needs the extra capacity to serve a growing population in Bullitt County.
The second project is a highway that would connect Interstate 65 and 71. Several of the proposed routes would cut through Bernheim. The proposed highway would likely have a far larger environmental impact than the pipeline, but it’s also much further off.
“This issue has really garnered a lot of support from the greater Louisville community,” Berry said. “We’ve heard from people from thousands of people from all walks of life who are supporting Bernheim.”
The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet received $2 million for the study, which officials expect to finish before the end of this year. Any future highway would still need legislative approval and funding.
Ahead of the march, protesters gathered in a park across the street from Louisville Metro Hall. The crowd sang songs and waved signs including “We speak for the trees” and “May the forest be with you.”
Maggie Komp, a senior at Presentation Academy, was one of several people who gave speeches. Komp said protecting Bernheim is part of a larger cause to fight for social justice and action on climate change.
“If we solve all the other problems, it won’t matter because we won’t have anywhere to live if we don’t save our planet,” Komp said. “And this is a big part of saving our planet right here in Kentucky.”
The peaceful demonstration resulted in the arrest of former mayoral candidate and environmentalist Jackie Green, who laid down in the street in an act of civil disobedience, before he was carried off by police.
The protest culminated in a march and a rally outside LG&E’s downtown office. There, demonstrators unveiled a mock pipeline, sang and chanted in support of Bernheim’s conservation lands.