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Bernheim Forest and Arboretum Celebrates 95th Anniversary

By Bernheim

Bernheim Forest and Arboretum Celebrates 95th Anniversary: Connecting People with Nature for Nearly a Century

Clermont, KY– Bernheim Forest and Arboretum proudly celebrates its 95th anniversary, marking nearly a century of connecting people with nature. Since its establishment in 1929 by Isaac W. Bernheim, the organization has been dedicated to preserving the wilderness of its forest while offering engaging outdoor experiences to the public. Over the past 95 years, Bernheim Forest and Arboretum have achieved several key milestones, each contributing to its lasting impact on the community and the environment.


“Bernheim Forest and Arboretum has been a sanctuary for nature enthusiasts and a source of inspiration for researchers and artists for the past 95 years,” said Bernheim’s President and CEO, Dr. Mark Wourms. “We are proud to have upheld Isaac W. Bernheim’s vision and are excited to continue delivering meaningful experiences that foster a deep appreciation for our natural world.”


A few highlights from Bernheim’s 95-year journey include:

1929: Isaac W. Bernheim bought and endowed 14,000 acres of land to buy Bernheim Forest and Arboretum, manifesting his vision of preserving a wild and unbroken forest for future generations to enjoy.


1931: The Frederick Law Olmstead Firm of Brookline, Mass., began work on a site plan for a landscape arboretum at Bernheim.


1950: Bernheim opens to the public.


1961: The Nature Museum (now the Education Center) is built, marking the organization’s commitment to offering educational programs and furthering its mission of connecting people with nature.


1980: Bernheim’s Artist in Residence program was created to enhance the organization’s role as a hub for creative and innovative exploration of art’s relationship with nature.


1982: Wild turkeys were successfully reintroduced to Bernheim. Once established, this population became an important foundation stock for reintroducing the turkey throughout Kentucky.


1988: Bernheim achieves national recognition when it is designated a National Natural Landmark by the U.S. Department of the Interior, acknowledging its exceptional value as a natural area.


1994: Bernheim is named the Official Arboretum of the state of Kentucky


1998: Bernheim Firetower was nominated and approved for inclusion in the National Historic Lookout Registry. It is one of the first Aermotor towers built of its kind and the third built in Kentucky.


2006: The Canopy Tree Walk is completed. This short boardwalk extends into the forest canopy, suspending visitors 75 feet above the forest floor.


2007: LEED platinum certification for the Visitor Center received.


2008: Golden Eagle monitoring started with West Virginia University.


2009: CONNECT, an innovative event that merges science, art, and nature, is held for the first time.


2009: Bobwhite quail were raised and released in restored habitats to establish stable quail populations at Bernheim.


2013: Bernheim launches the Children at Play Initiative, promoting free play and hands-on experiences in nature, contributing to the well-being and development of children in the community. Through the years, the program has expanded and evolved into the Children at Play Network.


2013: Level IV Arbnet accreditation achieved


2014: The Edible Garden opens at Bernheim. The 2.4-acre site is a living classroom and produces thousands of pounds of food annually.


2019: Danish artist Thomas Dambo installed Forest Giants in a Giant Forest. The three sculptures, created from recycled and repurposed materials, are part of Bernheim’s 90th anniversary celebration. As a result, visitor numbers surpass 500,000 for the year.


2023: Bernheim Forest and Arboretum commits to its Climate Crisis Action Plan, setting a goal to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2029, reaffirming its stance as a leader in environmental stewardship.


2023: Bernheim awarded BGCI certification, which distinguishes botanic gardens from non-botanic gardens and recognizes achievements in plant conservation.


2024: Bernheim unveils ACRE by Anne Peabody. Planted on the backside of Lake Nevin, ACRE is a living art installation addressing Bernheim’s history through the planting of 81 Merlot Redbud trees that delineate an acre boundary in memory of the forest that was previously devastated by the iron ore industry at an acre-a-day. Peabody is a multidisciplinary artist whose work focuses on the parallels between humans and the natural environment, inspired by scenes and stories from her childhood home in Kentucky.


As Bernheim Forest and Arboretum look toward the future, the organization remains steadfast in its commitment to connecting people with nature and safeguarding the pristine wilderness it embraces. With its rich history and a vision for a sustainable future, Bernheim Forest and Arboretum invites everyone to celebrate its 95th anniversary and embark on a journey of exploration and awe-inspiring experiences.


Please visit the new website focusing on visitor experiences at for more information about Bernheim Forest and Arboretum.


About Bernheim Forest and Arboretum

Bernheim’s mission is to connect people with nature. At over 16,000 acres, the largest privately held contiguous forest block in the eastern United States is dedicated to conservation and education. Bourbon maker Isaac Wolfe Bernheim established the forest and arboretum in 1929 as a gift to the people of Kentucky. Fun, educational programs, diverse tree collections, renowned art experiences, 40 miles of hiking trails, and varied landscapes host over 229 bird species, available every day except Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day. A $15 per car donation is suggested for non-members. For more information about Bernheim, visit

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