In nature, borders are mostly porous. There are few defined lines that the living ecosystems of our planet respect. The water, soil, air, energy, and living communities that are the building blocks of nature spill over and through the boundaries that we humans use to impose order and ownership on our world. It is handy to think of our responsibilities extending only to the limit of a fence line, but handy is not the only criteria to be considered.
Our new vision statement articulates that “Bernheim will be a nationally treasured leader in ecological stewardship that inspires the exploration of our deep connections with nature.” One of the four strategic pathways toward that vision calls upon Bernheim to explore “Actions Beyond our Borders.” For most of Bernheim’s history, the strategic focus has been directed within our borders. This was a logical first step that served the institution well, as conservation plans were established, infrastructure was developed and services were initiated. But nature teaches us that the whole is different than the sum of parts. Bernheim’s future will be built on relationships, context and connectedness. By specifically naming “Actions Beyond our Borders” as a pathway on our journey to become nationally treasured leaders, we are reaffirming our relationship to you and our shared community.
What is a shared community? Let’s look at that question first from an ecological perspective, since our vision is seated in ecological stewardship. Bernheim is unique ecologically in part because of our size. At 14,378 acres, Bernheim sequesters more carbon, filters more water and protects more interior forest than any other park or preserve in the region – by more than double. We protect seven forest types along with wetlands, glades, grasslands and other ecological systems. Through the natural systems services represented by these natural areas, we provide a remarkable benefit to this region in terms of ecological and economic health.
A second perspective on shared community has to do with mutual support. As a private non-profit organization, Bernheim relies upon philanthropic gifts rather than imposed taxes. We provide various means to increase your quality of life, i.e., having a beautiful place to exercise, relax, have fun, gain knowledge; in turn, you can choose to sustain Bernheim for yourself and future generations to come.
A healthy shared community cultivates partnership. Bernheim is dedicated to working with others on relevant and beneficial projects. Recent collaborations include Bellarmine, Bullitt County Fiscal Court, Center for Neighborhoods, LG&E, Louisville Water, PNC Bank, West End School – and these partnerships have led to ingenuity resulting in creative nature-based learning initiatives, newly planted trees, more and better amenities for enjoyment and exercise. These are but a few examples. The list is long and inventively growing by leaps and bounds.
Forging ahead, one of our most complex goals is to become a keystone organization in the protection and management of the private and public lands connected to Bernheim through the seven watersheds that begin or pass through Bernheim. When these lands are considered in aggregate, through the lens of conservation and the development of connecting biological corridors, this represents more than 300,000 acres of land. These lands also form our community. We are currently developing this Greater Bernheim Ecological District, and are excited about establishing new and different resources and relationships to make this happen.
Bernheim is endeavoring to reframe our shared community view of nature’s borders through a carefully considered process, to define a new set of criteria for living. This process of guiding people toward a deeper connection with nature begins with fostering the innate spark of curiosity for the “what, how and why” of our living surroundings. Then, people can be moved to respect and care for the planet. Following this, Bernheim ensures a welcoming environment in which humans can work together to dream up and implement new, healthier and more sustainable ways of living.
Insensibly, we tend to think of nature in terms of “our resource,” using and depleting it as though it has no greater meaning. Together, we can start thinking of nature as “our habitat” – or maybe you have a better term. Our new outlook will allow us to change wasteful behavior into positive, beneficial – and fun – achievement. Come to Bernheim and learn more. Stretch your mind beyond those fence lines. Begin living better with your community – through knowledge, communication and shared goals. Bernheim is taking action beyond our borders. We invite you to join us.