Hutchison connects people with nature

By Amy Joseph Landon

Source: The News-Enterprise
By Andrew Critchelow
September 23, 2020

After 14 years of service at Bernheim Arboretum and Re­search Forest in Clermont, Renée Hutchison of Glendale has step­ped up as Bernheim’s director of visitor experience.

Starting the position in June, Hutchison works with Bernheim’s Visitor Services, Operations and Ranger teams to welcome those who want to connect with nature.

“I want people, when they come in to that front gate, to feel like they’re in a magical space,” she said.

A native of the Louisville area, Hutchison said some of her fondest, early memories include exploring the wooded areas outside of her home. She said her mother was an avid gardener growing up.
“I’ve always been part of a family that loved being outdoors,” she said. “… It was always a part of my life growing up.”

Hutchison said she also worked at a retail plant nursery while in high school and during the summer months of college.

“It’s a hopeful career to have when you’re growing things and cultivating life,” she said. “I always loved that line of work.”

Hutchison earned a bachelor’s degree in plant and soil science with a focus in horticulture science from the University of Kentucky in 2005. She joined the Bernheim staff in 2006 as a horticulture technician and later became nursery manager.

Serving as nursery manager for more than a decade, Hutchison said some of her roles included the propagation of plant materials at the arboretum, organizing plant sales, managing the green roofs project and overseeing the edible garden.

“It was a diverse job for sure,” she said.

In 2018, Hutchison became the volunteer organizer for Bernheim. She said a great deal of her focus last year was on the Forest Giants project, which attracted thousands of visitors to Bernheim. They remain at Bernheim.

She said volunteers put in more than 600 hours in developing the project. Volunteers also were essential when the project was complete and visitors started rolling in, she said.

“We would not be who we are without them,” Hutchison said of Bernheim’s volunteers.

Though 2019 was a busy year for Bernheim, 2020 put a halt to operations as the COVID-19 pandemic took hold. Hutchison said as access to the park was temporarily halted earlier this year, so was Bernheim’s volunteer program.

Hutchison said volunteers are slowly beginning to return with safety guidelines and limitations in place. The park re-opened to the general public with safety guidelines in late July after months of closures.

“We just wanted to do things safely,” she said. “We wanted to do things slowly and thoughtfully.”

Working around 14 years with Bernheim, Hutchison said the diversity of her work is a big reason for her longevity.

“I’ve always been given the opportunity to expand,” she said.

Aside from her work at Bern­heim, Hutchison said the arboretum and research forest has been significant to her personal life as well. She said she met her husband James at Bernheim, got engaged there and their wedding ceremony took place there.

“Bernheim is a huge part of my life,” she said.

Hutchison said whether guests are looking to go for a hike, enjoy a meal at Isaac’s Cafe or view some of the art displays available at Bernheim, she wants to make sure they have all the information and resources they need to enjoy themselves.

Dr. Mark Wourms, executive director for Bernheim, said Hutchison is the right person for the task.

“Renée has been an integral member of our team for 14 years and I couldn’t be happier about this announcement,” he said. “She is the ideal person to make sure our visitors have the best experience at Bernheim while connecting with nature.”

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