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Bernheim Forest Kentucky – US Natural Parks – Amazing Nature – Forest Giants by Thomas Dambo


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Bernheim Forest is located south of Louisville, Kentucky.

Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest is a 15,625 acre (57 km2) arboretum, forest, and nature preserve located in Clermont, Kentucky (25 miles south of Louisville, Kentucky, United States).

Bernheim was founded in 1929 by Isaac Wolfe Bernheim, a German immigrant and successful brewer whose whiskey distillery business established the I.W. Harper brand. He purchased the land in 1928 at $1 an acre because most of it had been stripped for mining iron ore. The Frederick Law Olmsted landscape architecture firm started work on designing the park in 1931 and it opened in 1950. Bernheim Forest was given to the people of Kentucky in trust and is the largest privately-owned natural area in the state. Bernheim, his wife, daughter, and son-in-law are buried in the forest.

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In 1988, at least one outside consulting firm was engaged, and work on a new long-range plan for the forest was begun. One of the directives of the new strategic plan was to make the arboretum a primary focus. In addition, the forest decided to strengthen its research ties with institutions such as the University of Louisville. As a result, Bernheim Forest was renamed Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest. However, most local visitors still refer to the property as “Bernheim Forest,” and some of the signage located along surrounding roads still refer to the old name. In recent years, Bernheim has developed a strong volunteer program, added frequent public workshops and classes, and successfully hosts several large public events each year. These include the annual ColorFest in October, Bloomfest in May, CONNECT, an evening in August where art, science and nature converge in unexpected and funky ways, and a 5-mile (8 km) run/walk, held in October.

Established in 1980, Bernheim’s Artist in Residence program annually awards artists the opportunity to live and create site-specific work inspired by Bernheim. Throughout 2020, we will celebrate 40 years of this internationally renowned program that allows our visitors to experience nature in a new way while enhancing awareness of Bernheim’s mission of connecting people with nature through the lens of art.


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