EDITORIAL: Giants with a purpose

By Amy Joseph Landon

Source: Kentucky Standard
By the Kentucky Standard Editorial Board
April 11, 2019

Last week, during spring break, thousands of people migrated to a large forest that is located in Bullitt and Nelson County for a “day-cation” and were greeted by GIANTS!

The forest is Bernheim Forest, which is spread out over 16,000 acres in Bullitt and Nelson counties (roughly 25 square miles), and the giants are the large, wooden sculptures that we’ve heard so much about recently. In fact, Bernheim Forest was so busy on April 3 that it had to close its gates between 1 and 3 p.m. because of the huge influx of visitors that came to see the giants, which exceeded expectations.

The giants have certainly brought in thousands of new visitors to Bernheim Forest, and that’s a great thing. Because with all of those cars that are going through the gates of Bernheim, with people spending money at the café, gift shop, on spring and fall plant sales, on classes and programs, and those that become members at an entry level cost of just $35 per year — all of that helps Bernheim Forest to continue to do the valuable research that they do each and every day.

While Bernheim Forest is a fantastic place to visit, with over 40 miles of hiking trails, various nature programs, festivals, a visitor center and café, a fishing lake, giants, and much more, it is also the home of a 240-acre arboretum containing over 1,900 labeled species and cultivars of trees, shrubs and other plants, and was designated in 1994 as Kentucky’s official arboretum. The arboretum’s holly collection is one of the best in North America, containing over 185 types of American holly species.

In addition to the arboretum, Bernheim Forest is also the winter home to a pair of rare eastern golden eagles named Harper and Athena. Both are outfitted with trackers that allow the research staff of Bernheim Forest, and others, to track the migration patterns, speed, and altitude of the eagles as they make their way to Canada in the spring, flying at a speed of 40 mph at an altitude reaching 3,000 feet. Golden eagles require large forest blocks, so Bernheim provides a perfect winter home for these magnificent creatures.

Bernheim Forest is a beautiful attraction, but it is also a major conservation research facility. With an attraction like the giants bringing in visitors in record numbers, the research will be able to continue for years to come due to the influx of funds and attention to the forest.

After only five days of the giants being completed, some “souvenir thieves” took stones from the bracelet of one named Elina. The stones have since been replaced, but with these amazing wooden sculptures at Bernheim, it is our hope that this type of vandalism and thievery doesn’t continue.

We are lucky to have a jewel like Bernheim Forest as a part of Nelson County, and also fortunate for the research that is done within Bernheim that helps to protect and conserve our natural resources, such as trees and golden eagles.

If you haven’t visited lately, take the time to do so and go see the giants, walk the trails, check out the golden eagles when they return in the fall, take plenty of pictures as souvenirs, get a membership, and help to support this great resource. Harper and Athena, and generations to come, will appreciate it.

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