Bernheim Forest is growing. The arboretum and research forest’s most recent acquisition is 162 acres of forest and farmland immediately adjacent to the property in Bullitt County.
The land used to be owned by the late Raymond Thurman, a local farmer and businessman. And on a rainy January day, it’s quiet on the land. Bernheim executive director Mark Wourms is standing in a barn on the property…a place that’ll eventually play a role in the nonprofit’s outdoor education programs.
“Our protection of these kinds of lands allow us to get kids into clean waters,” Wourms said. “Because we protect the headwaters in so much of Wilson Creek, it is one of the cleanest streams in the region, if not in the state.”
Just up the hill is one of the sites that make the land unique. It’s a cedar glade — a unique and rare habitat where cedar trees thrive in poor soil and exposed bedrock. Forest manager Andrew Berry points to the various plant species.
“Bernheim’s goal for the cedar glades is to keep them in their natural condition, keep some of these endemic and rare plants,” he said. “And also to provide some connectivity between them.”
With the new acquisition, Bernheim now owns 13 cedar glades and more than 14,000 acres. But Berry says that’s still not enough.
“But even with over 14000 acres, we know that it’s really not big enough as an ecological preserve,” he said. “So connecting this 14,600 acres up to other natural areas is really the key if we’re going to protect biodiversity and help this ecosystem in the lower Salt River function.”
This new site isn’t open to the public yet. First, Berry and his team will work to return to forest to as natural a state as possible, shoring up erosion and removing invasive species.