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Metro Parks Newsroom

Metro Parks staff conducts controlled burns

Thursday April 9, 2009

Metro Parks staff conducted a successful ‘controlled burn’ on 7.5 acres of grassland in the Scott’s Gap section of Jefferson Memorial Forest on April 2, 2009, and then followed up with a controlled burn on April 9, 2009 at Iroquois Park's Summit Field that encompassed 7 acres.

The burns were managed by the department’s Natural Areas program, with support from Olmsted Parks Conservancy volunteers.

This is the third time the Scott’s Gap area has been managed with fire in recent years, in an effort to restore it to a native prairie. A permit was issued by the Louisville Metro Air Pollution Control District, and firefighters were on standby in case they had been needed. The controlled burn was conducted as part of a federal Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program grant.

Why does Metro Parks use fire?

In 2002, Metro Parks began using controlled burns as an ecological management technique in Iroquois Park. Through our Natural Areas program, Metro Parks plans to conduct controlled burns on a rotating basis in locations where fire is an appropriate land management technique. Each location will be burned every two to three years as controlled burns become more routine in parks.

“Fire is an important tool in maintaining healthy habitats for many kinds of plants and animals, some of which are dependent upon periodic fires for survival,” said Bennett Knox, administrator of Natural Areas for Metro Parks. “Controlled burns promote the establishment of native grasses and wildflowers, while impeding the growth of non-native and exotic species.”

During a burn, fire is controlled using natural and artificial ‘fire breaks’ – roads, streams, trails and mowed lines that contain the fire to a desired area – as well as through a variety of fire suppression methods. Some workers are in charge of setting fires, while other workers are down-wind, prepared to extinguish the flames. The activity is coordinated by radio from a moving command post.

Controlled burns cannot take place unless a precise set of weather conditions are met, ensuring that wind will not carry flames outside of the burn area, and that the smoke will rise and dissipate quickly.

Natural Areas program

The Natural Areas program, created in 2004, focuses on management of the city’s natural resources. They manage several parks that are primarily wooded, including Jefferson Memorial Forest, Beargrass Creek Greenway at Irish Hill, Caperton Swamp, Miles Park and Waverly Park. Additionally, they provide support throughout the Metro Parks system in issues such as trail maintenance, care of native plant species and public environmental education.

The Natural Areas program is headquartered in Jefferson Memorial Forest and led by Bennett Knox, a Kentucky native who holds a master’s degree in Environmental Management from Duke University.