Regional daytrip

Jefferson Memorial Forest
offers hikes, programs, nature

Visitors call 5,600-acre park
“Louisville’s best-kept secret”

By Kelly Kapp
Contributing Writer

FAIRDALE, Ky. (August 2005) – Bernheim. Otter Creek. Cherokee Park. Seneca Park. Iroquois Park. All these names evoke some sense of recognition in the minds of residents of Louisville and surrounding areas. But mention Jefferson Memorial Forest, and many people say “Where’s that?” It’s time to set the record straight.

Family walking trail

Photos by Kelly Kapp

Visitors to the expansive Jefferson
Memorial Forest, just 10 minutes southwest
of Louisville, can experience numerous
activities in Kentucky’s great outdoors.

Jefferson Memorial Forest is a wonderful, expansive system of trails, camping areas, vegetation, and many other outdoor activities. Owned and operated by Louisville Metro, Jefferson Memorial Forest is located in Fairdale with the main entrance located only a few minutes away from the Gene Snyder Freeway (I-265).
Established in the mid-1940s, Jefferson Memorial Forest, formerly known as Jefferson County Memorial Forest, stretches across the southwestern part of Jefferson County and into Bullitt County. At approximately 5,600 acres, the forest is the nation’s largest municipal urban forest. The idea for creating a community forest came about because local government “noted that recreation outlets were few in southwestern Jefferson County,” according to an entry in “The Encyclopedia of Louisville.”
In the late 1940s, the forest was dedicated as a memorial to the veterans of World War II and later rededicated to all veterans of foreign wars.
Jefferson Memorial Forest is divided into three different sections: the Horine Reservation, the Tom Wallace Recreation Area and the Paul Yost Recreation Area. The Paul Yost Recreation Area, located on Holsclaw Hill Road, is a 566-acre recreation area with a playground, picnic facilities, grills, and hiking and horse trails.
The Tom Wallace Recreation Area is located off Mitchell Hill Road just across the street from the Welcome Center. This section includes a picnic area with tables, grills and a shelter, a lake with a fishing dock (no cost to fish; just have a Kentucky fishing license), as well as two trailheads – the Tulip Tree Trail for the novice hiker, and the Siltstone Trail, which runs 6.5 miles one-way.

Alpine Tower

The Horine Section of the Forest, located off Holsclaw Hill Road, is the “training base for forest programs,” according to “Metro Parks Guide to the Forest.” Facilities include three shelters, hiking and nature trails, and a conference center, which is available for rental. The Horine Section is also home to the forest’s campground, with six family tent sites, available for $10 per night, and four group sites for $25 per night.
Also located at the Horine Reservation is the Environmental Education Center. Staffed from 8 a.m. to noon Tuesday through Saturday, the center offers programs for children and adults that focus on many different topics in nature.
A garden boasts a collection of plants native to Kentucky, including honeysuckle. The facility also houses snakes, amphibians, and other animals that are native to Kentucky.
The center has a “bird blind” as well, which is a window where patrons can sit inside and watch birds feed and play. Cardinals, blue jays, woodpeckers, morning doves, squirrels and chipmunks all visit the feeders outside the window.
“It’s always a party at the bird blind,” said Tonya Swan, coordinator of Public Education.
What makes Jefferson Memorial Forest unique is its wide-range of planned activities intended to entertain and educate people of all ages.
Activities range from 90-minute guided hikes to overnight camp-outs. Most of the hikes are themed and aim to educate hikers about nature and the outdoors, focusing on subjects like bats, owls, or insects.
The forest even offers “Howl at the Moon” hikes every third Friday of the month, when hikers are invited to “come out to the forest for an evening romp through the woods” with their dogs.
An outdoor skills class is held each month on bird watching, canoeing, camping, or other skills. The forest also has a “Pre-School Nature Group” each month for children ages 2 to 4 and their parents. The Pre-School programs meet at the Horine Environmental Education Center. Upcoming topics include turtles and snakes.
The 52-foot Alpine climbing tower, located in the Horine Reservation section of the forest, is open to the public every fourth Saturday of the month. The tower is rated one of the best-maintained in the nation, and is one of the first 10 towers built anywhere by Alpine Tower International. The Forest also offers team-building programs, both corporate and school-related.
Jefferson Memorial Forest receives high praise from those who are familiar with its offerings. Kerry Morris, leader of Girl Scout Troop 891 from Middletown, brought her troop to the forest so the girls could climb the Alpine Tower. Morris called Jefferson Memorial Forest the “best-kept secret in Louisville.”
The girls in her troop had visited the forest before to learn outdoor cooking and survival skills. She said the forest is appealing because of the prices for activities.
To help Jefferson Memorial Forest become more visible in the community, the Department of Metro Parks is planning broadening the forest’s appeal. “We’re focusing more on public programs and other events to show that the forest has more than just self-guided hiking trails,” said Jason Cissell, Public Information Officer for Metro Parks.
The first annual Forest Fest, a family day with bluegrass concerts, was held in May. It attracted more than 400 people, said Cissell. Another upcoming activity is Snake Appreciation Day, which will take place Saturday, Sept. 17, at the Environmental Education Center in the Horine Reservation area.

• For more information and schedule of fall events, visit: www.memorialforest.com or call (502) 366-5432.

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