Source: The Kentucky Standard
By Kacie Goode
May 12, 2020
Hannah Hunt was busy with her normal work activity last week at Bernheim Forest, but with some added quiet. The full-time horticulturist has been with Bernheim for two years, starting out as a volunteer, and said the absence of guests allows her to work more freely. On Thursday, she took advantage of the nice weather to clean up the landscape around Lake Nevin.
Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest has been closed to the public since March 26, but 54 staff members remain at work behind the scenes, even if that means switching to some new roles.
Amanda Beavers, who works in visitor services, and Carrie Frazier, an education and horticulture staff member, were working around the park’s edible garden. Their work is normally more guest-focused, but amid the park’s closure because of the novel coronavirus and public health restrictions, they’ve had to adapt along with other staff.
“We’ve reassigned people where appropriate, allowing us to actually get more work done in the arboretum and natural areas,” said Amy Landon, a spokesperson for Bernheim. Shifting the staff has also helped fill in the gaps left by volunteers, who are unable to visit the forest at this time.
Landon said the forest was fortunate to be in decent financial standing before the closure and also received a Paycheck Protection Program loan to help keep its staff.
Bernheim is one of many parks across the country that became off-limits to the public as large gatherings were prohibited. While a difficult announcement to make, the closure was appropriate, officials said, to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19.
“We were one of the early parks to close but certainly not the only park,” Landon said.
When restrictions were initially implemented, Bernheim attempted to comply and encourage distancing among its visitors, she said, but it proved difficult to enforce social distancing.
Last spring, as Bernheim unveiled its Forest Giants exhibit, the park saw more than 12,000 visitors in a single day, leading it to temporarily stop admittance because of a major backup in traffic. Bernheim closed just before the start of spring break this year in anticipation of more crowds.
Forest officials are continuing to monitor the situation with COVID-19 and are looking at how to approach re-opening to the public, though a date has not been set. When Bernheim does reopen it will do so in a way that limits the number of people in the park at one time and the contact between them.
“We really want to keep in mind the safety of our staff, employees and community,” Landon said. “That’s our priority.”
While Bernheim remains closed at this time, the forest is encouraging families to stay connected with nature in other ways, such as at-home challenges and a virtual visitor center. The forest is also hosting a contest through June 1 for Kentucky artists to submit designs for Bernheim apparel.
Activities, contest rules and updates can be found at Bernheim.org.