History

History The Jefferson Memorial Forest stands as a living, woodland memorial to those Kentucky veterans who have served our nation in time of war. Today, the Jefferson Memorial Forest encompasses approximately 6,400 acres in southwest Jefferson County and portions of northern Bullitt County south of the Gene Snyder Freeway and between I-65 and Dixie Highway. The acreage protected as part of the forest has increased significantly since the preserve’s inception in the 1940s and the forest has undergone a number of important changes during that time. This page presents a timeline of the forest, including details on its founding, its purpose, additions of parcels, and the significant milestones that have been reached over the past decades. This information was pulled from numerous sources including: research compiled by former Jefferson Memorial Forest employee John Knouse in 1989; newspaper articles; historical deeds; communication with former employees, and research conducted by University of Louisville intern, Adam King in 2004. We recognize that this history is not complete. If you have any information on any of the events included herein (e.g., stories or anecdotes) or if any information is incorrect, please feel free to send an e-mail to forest@louisvilleky.gov. We hope to continually update this information as we move forward.

1915 Schoolhouse constructed at Mitchell Hill Road. The Mitchell schoolhouse would later become the location of the Welcome Center. This schoolhouse replaced a log cabin built in the 1800s and moved across Mitchell Hill Road for use as a house (still standing today).
 
Tom Wallace, editor of the Louisville Times advocates for establishment of a forest in Jefferson County.
   

1944

In September, a motion is made by County Commissioner White to establish a park “to honor those who participated in the uniformed ranks during World War II, and particularly those from Jefferson County”. The motion failed on account of a tie vote.

In October, the Jefferson County Fiscal Court appoints a war memorial commission to consider establishment of a memorial to honor citizens who sacrificed their lives during World War II. Initial advisory members included Tom Wallace and other prominent citizens. Delegates include representatives of local veterans groups including the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the Spanish War Veterans, and the American Legion. Colonel Henry Stites of the American Legion was named chairman.

 

   
1945 The war memorial commission is reformed into the Jefferson County Forest Commission as a nonprofit corporation. The commission is later able to purchase land for establishment of the forest as a result of legislation passed by the Kentucky General Assembly in 1946. County Judge Mark Beauchamp is chairman. In November 1945, Judge Beauchamp is replaced as judge by Horace M. Barker.

The Forest Commission hires Major Paul A. Yost, a former Indiana State Forester as the county forester. The Paul Yost Recreation Area (still known to many in the area as Jones Hollow or Forest View Park) is named in his honor.

   
1946 Land Acquisition: Granger Tracts, 126 acres; Hagner and Wiegle Tracts, 352 acres; Hagner Tract, 87 acres; Middleton Tract, 132 acres. Total 736 acres.
   
1947 Falender and Morrison Tract, 168 acres; Fey Tract, 95 acres; Conkling Tract, 40 acres; Siemens Tract, 110 acres (where Tom Wallace Lake was constructed). Total 413 acres.
   

1947

Tom Wallace Lake constructed for a price of $21,377.

To combat forest fires, a 100-ft fire tower was constructed on Holsclaw Hill Road. The tower was equipped with a two-way radio. At the time, those who climbed to the top of the tower were inducted into the “Jefferson County Squirrel Club” and given a membership card so stating.

The Jefferson County Playground and Recreation Board sponsored a competitive two-mile cross-country run in the Scott’s Gap section of the forest. The intent was to make this an annual event. Various cross-country events have been held at the forest over the years. The most recent reincarnation is the “Love’n the Hills” run, an annual 30-mile “Ultra-marathon initiated in 2004.

   

1948

County Forest formally dedicated on October 10, 1948 with a ceremony at Tom Wallace Lake.

Salvage logging of American Chestnut trees reported in the forest. This tree species, a major component of Kentucky hardwood forests, was wiped out by the American chestnut blight. The Horine Conference Center was partially constructed with American chestnut timbers salvaged from the then privately-owned Horine Reservation.

   
1948 Land Acquisition: Watkins Tract, 92 acres; Morgan Tract, 92 acres. Total 184 acres.
   
1949

Land Acquisition: Schoenbeckler Tract, 5 acres.

   

1950

Tom Wallace Lake officially opened for fishing – a sufficient number of bass and bluegill stocked in 1948 having reached legal size. A thousand fishermen were reported to have attended the opening day with many taking the limit.

Forest Commission purchased the 4.5-acre Mitchell Hill schoolhouse property.

   
1950s It is reported Japanese honeysuckle was planted at various locations within the forest during the late 1940s and early 1950s. This species, along with a number of others including bush honeysuckle and tree of heaven, is currently recognized as an invasive non-native species that threatens native ecosystems. It is currently a widespread pest species located within the forest and many other Metro parks.
   
1951 Land Acquisition: Hoefflin Tract, 337 acres; Walker Tract, 76 acres. Total 413 acres.
   
1951 Severe ice storm damages many trees.

Jefferson County Forest Commission agreed to advertise for bids on a fifty-year lease affecting 168 acres within the Forest View section of the forest (now Paul Yost Recreation Area). The Fiscal Court accepted a bid from Ohio River Sand, causing an uproar. Ultimately the State Court of Appeals upheld a ruling nullifying the Fiscal Court action.

   
1954 Land Acquisition: Marcum Tract, 35 acres.
   
1954 Duncan Shelter dedicated in what is now the Paul Yost Recreation Area.
   
1963 Responsibility for recreational activities at Tom Wallace Lake (now Tom Wallace Recreation Area) and Jones Hollow (now Paul Yost Recreation Area) was assumed by the Jefferson County Playground and Recreation Board. Responsibility for the remainder of the forest remained with the Jefferson County Fiscal Court.
   
1964 Jefferson County Playground and Recreation Board resolved to discuss a parkway linking the six existing tracts of the Jefferson Memorial Forest.
   
1965 Forest View Park Dedicated (now Paul Yost Recreation Area).
   
1965 Jefferson County Playground and Recreation Board adopted a resolution proclaiming the forest a memorial to Kentucky’s war veterans. Complete resolution text.

WHEREAS, Jefferson County Fiscal Court in August 1943, initiated a program for the purchase of approximately eighteen hundred acres of scenic ground between Old national and Dixie Highways, adjacent to the Bullitt County line as a War Memorial Forest, preliminary to which approval from practically every Jefferson County organization and group was secured, and

WHEREAS, such program was bottomed on the idea that military personnel from Kentucky had rendered valiant service in all Wars commencing with the American Revolution and including various engagement prior to and including the War of 1812, followed by the Mexican War, both Federal and Confederate in the Civil War, the Spanish American War, World War I, World War II and the Korean War as a result of which there should be memorials and monuments throughout Kentucky evidencing such combat participation, including memorials to Virginia-born Kentuckians, who laid the initial foundation four this Nation’s expansion beyond the Appalachian mountains, Kentucky troops under Richard M. Johnson, who defeated the British at the Battle of Detroit and thereafter crossed the St. Clair River and again defeated the British at the Battle of Thames where Tecumseh was killed, the Battle of lake Erie commanded by Oliver Hazard Perry and the Battle of new Orleans. Such Detroit, Thames and Lake Erie battles resulted in preventing the Canadian boundary from extending from the St. Louis vicinity eastwardly through Indianapolis, Columbus, Pittsburgh and Buffalo and including the area extending westward to Minneapolis and St. Paul, and

WHEREAS, in the Civil War Kentucky furnished more troops to the Federal Army than many of the Northern States and more troops to the Confederate Army than many of the Southern States, and one hundred years will have passed on April 10, 1965, since the surrender at Appomattox when Robert E. Lee issued an order of surrender comparable in diction to our Declaration of Independence, and

WHEREAS, additional acreage adjacent to and comparable with the County forest is available for private purchase and development by veteran and other groups as war memorials, including bridle paths and hiking trails both in Jefferson and Bullitt Counties, so as to encourage the creation of dude ranch accommodations within reach of Louisville’s hotel and motel facilities.

NOW, THEREFORE, BE It RESOLVED that this Recreation Board does, on this 25th day of march, 1965, at its regular meeting, hereby recommend to the Fiscal Court that they Jefferson County forest be a Memorial to Kentucky War Veterans and does hereby invite veteran and other groups to develop memorial and other suitable projects within the area adjacent to said forest so that the scenic beauty and possibilities of such area will become recognized on a national scale as a memorial and other features are developed.

   
1971 Land Acquisition: Crowder Tract, 114 acres.
   
1972 Girl Scout Troop 116 created the Forest View Loop hiking trail, now known as the Mitchell McConnell Loop Trail located in the Paul Yost Section.
   
1974 Wilderness Jefferson County, an informal coalition of local environmental groups, formed to advocate responsible use and preservation of wild lands, including the Jefferson Memorial Forest.
   
1975 Jefferson Memorial Forest dedicated as a national Audubon Society Wildlife Refuge, Dr. Elvis Star, then president of the Society, presided over a ceremony at what is now the Paul Yost Recreation Area. This was an initiative of the local Audubon Chapter, and due to an oversight the national Audubon Society does not formally list the forest as a refuge.
   
1978 After years of inactivity, the charter of the Jefferson County Forest Commission was officially revoked by the State.

Siltstone Trail constructed by volunteers from the Sierra Club and Wilderness Jefferson County and dedicated by County Judge Mitch McConnell.
   
1979 Tom Wallace Lake drained so that structural repairs could be made.
   
1979 Land Acquisition: Surgener Tract, 189 acres.
   
1980 Land Acquisition: Miller Tract, 87 acres.
   
1981 Land Acquisition: Ellison Tract, 21 acres.
   
1982 A $1.3 million loan for land purchased approved. The loan was part of a $13 million package for Riverport development. The county forest portion was for environmental mitigation for the industrial park development.
   
1982 Land Acquisition: Scott Tracts, 113 acres; Catholic Tract, 145 acres. Total 258 acres.
   
1983 Land Acquisition: Allen Tract, 15 acres; Farnsley Tract, 457 acres; Allbright Tract, 235 acres; Straub Tract, 63 acres; Huss Tract, 48 acres; Houchin Tract, 176 acres; Commonwealth of KY Tract, 142 acres; Dawson Tract; 42 acres; Martin Tract, 69 acres; O’Bryan Tract, 74 acres; Sheeley Tract, 41 acres. Total 1,347 acres.
   
1983 Renovations to the Forest View section completed. Area renamed the Paul Yost Recreation Area. Tom Wallace Park closed for renovations; area renamed the Tom Wallace Recreation Area.
   
1984 Land Acquisition: Griffin Tract, 36 acres; Frazier Tract, 42 acres; Sober Tract, 11 acres. Total 89 acres.

Forest View Loop Trail renamed the Mitch McConnell Loop Trail.

   
1988 Land Acquisition: Stober Tract, 60 acres; Colston Tract, 21 acres. Total 81 acres.
   
1989 Land Acquisition: Rayhill Tract, 13 acres; Schneider Tract, 13 acres; Arnold Tract, 34 acres; Frazier Tract, 91 acres; Sword Tract, 5 acres. In addition, heirs of the late Dr. Emmit F. and Helen Horine donated land then and now known as the Horine Reservation to Jefferson County for inclusion in the forest. The land had been home to the Boy Scouts of America reservation for approximately 25 years. Total 1,156 acres.
   
1990 Low ropes course constructed for purposes of outdoor adventure programming and teambuilding.
   
1991 Construction on the ¼ mile accessible Tuliptree Trail completed. Job Training Partnership Act Summer Youth Employment Project.

"Brown Shelter" converted from an open air pavilion into an environmental Education Center.

   
1991 Land Acquisition: Rennirt Tract, 11 acres.
   
1992 52-ft Alpine Tower constructed for use in outdoor adventure programming to compliment existing teams course events.
   
1994 $400,000 spent to convert former schoolhouse (at that time used as a maintenance facility) to what is now the forest Welcome Center. Renovation included addition of a gift shop, meeting room, and exhibit historical classroom.
   
1996 Major tornado cuts an estimated 8-mile, 2000 ft-wide swath through the forest.
   
1997 Volunteer Trail Ranger Program initiated in order to increase presence on the trails and to assist with trail maintenance activities.
   
1997 Land Acquisition: Rayhill Tract (53 acres) acquired using grant money received from the Kentucky Heritage Land Conservation Fund (KHLCF), using funds generated from sale of nature license plates. Mulloy Tract (147 acres) also acquired.
   
1999 Coogle Tract, 90 acres. Also purchased using KHLCF revenues.
   
2001 Mitchell Tract, 100 acres. Also purchased using KHLCF revenues.
   
2003 Churchman Tract, 70 acres. Also purchased using KHLCF revenues.

Playground replaced at Tom Wallace Recreation Area.

Interior and grounds of Environmental Education Center renovated with updated exhibits including bird blind, native plant garden, and pond.

   
2004 New low-ropes teambuilding course constructed for use in outdoor adventure programming. Replaced previously constructed teams course events.

Major thunderstorms decimate part of the Horine Reservation. Popular group campsite #2, “the pines” severely damaged.

Fire Tower on Holsclaw Hill Road dismantled due to lack of use and deteriorated condition.

Metro Parks creates the Natural Areas Division to be based at Jefferson Memorial Forest. As such, JMF staff assumes responsibilities for environmental education, stewardship, and development of nature-based recreational amenities at additional parks including Waverly Park, Caperton Swamp, and others.

2005 Forest Land Acquisition: Samuels Property, 401 acres.

2006

A veterans monument is placed at the Welcome Center to highlight the role of the Jefferson Memorial Forest as a woodland tribute those Kentuckians who have served our nation honorably.

Land acquisition: Cannady property, 83 acres; Lamkin Tract, 61 acres. Total 144 acres.

2007 First full-time supervisor hired at JMF dedicated solely to land management activities including ecological restoration and trail maintenance and construction.

2008

First full-time employee hired at JMF dedicated solely to volunteer coordination. Volunteer naturalist and volunteer land steward programs initiated to provide community volunteers with the opportunity to support JMF environmental education and stewardship activities.

Shannon’s Pond in the Horine Reservation, is rehabilitated as wetland habitat to support Jefferson Memorial Forest aquatic environmental education programs, including summer camps.

Jefferson Memorial Forest is awarded a grant from the U.S. Forest Service and initiates its Louisville is Engaging Children Outdoors (Louisville ECHO) environmental education initiative. Since its inception in 2008, the program has provided nearly 1,600 JCPS 4th graders with multiple visits to explore nature in support of their school curriculum. The program provides annual visits to local park natural areas, the Jefferson Memorial Forest, and the Red River Gorge National Geologic Area. Current participating schools include Young, Portland, Chenoweth, Cane Run, and Coral Ridge. Since 2009, the program has been supported by Toyota Motor Manufacturing of Kentucky and Metro Council members including Vicki Welch (District 13), Tina-Ward-Pugh (District 9), and Cheri-Bryant Hamilton (District 5).


2009

Comprehensive master plan completed for Jefferson Memorial Forest Master Plan. Prepared by noted landscape architecture firm, Jones & Jones, the master plan details new and complementary facilities to support the Forest’s as a provider of ecological services and nature-related public engagement. More information available here .

Phase I of Waverly Park renovation completed, including installation of new shelters, fishing habitat improvement, construction of a gravel path around the trail, and mountain bike trail improvements. Funding provided by Metro Council District 25 and through
Recreational Trails Program grant from the KY Department for Local Government. Phase II (currently unfunded) includes installation of utilities and construction of a restroom facility.

Natural Areas staff teams with MSD and other partners including Male High Schools’ APES students and Red Wing Ecological to construct a functioning wetland at the Beargrass Creek Greenway. The wetland, located at the corner of Lexington Road and Grinstead Drives, treats run-off from nearby businesses before it enters Beargrass Creek.

Forest Land Acquisition: Two parcels were purchased to provide critical linkages between disconnected parts of the Forest. These include the Lamont Tract (19.3 acres) which allowed connection, for the first time, of the Horine Reservation and the Paul Yost and Tom Wallace Recreation Areas. It also includes the Watts tract (0.5 acres) which provided a narrow connection between the Moreman’s Hill and Scott’s Gap Sections of the Forest. Total 19.8 acres.

2010 Jefferson Memorial Forest teams with the Louisville Metro Parks Foundation and is awarded a $5,000 grant for new trail construction to connect with the Louisville Loop. The volunteer-based program is expected to conclude in 2010.

The first portions of the Yost Ridge Trail connecting the Horine Reservation to the Tom Wallace and Paul Yost Recreation Areas is completed. The trail was completed with support of a $5,000 grant to Louisville Metro Parks Foundation by Nature Valley Granola.

JMF maintenance staff constructs an overflow parking area across from the Welcome Center to accommodate the increase in visitors to the Forest.

Forest Land Acquisition: The former Flynn Brother’s Sand and Gravel Pit just north of the Gene Snyder Freeway and adjacent to Pond Creek is acquired (67.5 acres). The pit has been filled and now exists as open field. The property provides potential future access to the Moreman’s Hill Area and supports routing of the Louisville Loop.


2011

Jefferson Memorial Forest program staff received certification from the Arbor Day Foundation for the newly constructed Nature Explore play area adjacent to the Environmental Education Center. This amenity is used to support nature-based programming at the Forest.

Jefferson Memorial Forest maintenance staff constructs a new floating dock at Tom Wallace Lake.

2,472 acres of the Jefferson Memorial Forest are added to the Kentucky State Natural Areas Registry based on its outstanding examples of KY ecological communities and by the fact that it provides specific habitat for a State-listed endangered plant (narrow leaved blue curls).

Forest Land Acquisition: Donahue Tract, 2.0 acres; Grace Property, 24 acres; Richardson Tract, 7.6 acres. Total 33.6 acres.


2012

Metro Parks Natural Areas Division assumes responsibility for maintenance of the off-road and off-levee portions of the Louisville Loop. A full-time park worker and a sweeper truck are added to support the effort.

Shared-use equestrian/hiking trail redesign completed for the Paul Yost Recreation Area. This includes basic parking improvements necessary to accommodate large horse trailers. Construction drawings have been prepared for more substantial improvements to this area including expanded parking and trailhead amenities. Unfortunately, funding is not available at this time.

Natural Areas staff and volunteers largely complete removal of the most noxious invasive species from the Clifton Heights Greenway. Financial support for this project was provided by District 9 Metro Councilmember, Tina Ward-Pugh.

Nature Explore play area constructed at the Welcome Center to provide additional activities for young visitors to the Forest.

Forest Land Acquisition: Druin Property, 67.5 acres; Sullivan Property, 83 acres; Wetland Preservation Trust, 87.3 acres; Edwards Tract, 2.2 acres. Total 240 acres.


2013

Remainder of the Yost Ridge Trail connecting the Horine Reservation to the Tom Wallace and Paul Yost Recreation Areas is completed.

Natural Areas staff and volunteers largely complete removal of the most noxious invasive species from Caperton Swamp. Financial support for this project was provided by District 7 Metro Councilmember, Ken Fleming. Control of invasive species is an ongoing effort, but this work paves the way for planting of native trees and shrubs at Caperton with support from a $40,000 grant from the Louisville Metropolitan Sewer District. This grant will also facilitate planting at Clifton Heights Greenway.

Wilderness Louisville, Inc. is registered as a KY not-for-profit corporation to serve as a newly formed friends group in support of Jefferson Memorial Forest at associated Natural Areas-related programming initiatives. Stay tuned….

Land Acquisition: Beauchamp Property, 30 acres; Renaissance Deering Road, LLC property, 15.2 acres. Total 18.2 acres. The Beauchamp Property, as with many on this page, was purchased with funding from the KY Heritage Land Conservation Fund. This fund is partially supported by funding through the sale of nature license plates. More information available at heritageland.ky.gov.

2014 South Points Scenic Area established to support tourism related to south and southwest Louisville cultural and natural attractions, including Jefferson Memorial Forest.