Faced with the possibility of a natural gas pipeline and highway cutting through its property, Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest officials came to Elizabethtown on Thursday to encourage people to fight back against the proposed developments.
“We’re not against development,” said Mark Wourms, Bernheim’s executive director, to several Elizabethtown Community and Technical College students and community members. “But we believe that development should be smart. It should be contained. And it should go hand-in-hand with conservation.”
Louisville Gas and Electric is looking to build a pipeline through a portion of Bernheim property to provide natural gas service to more than 60 homes and businesses in Bullitt County.
The forest, which is over 15,000 acres, has a conservation easement and deed restrictions on the land, preventing the forest from simply giving the land to the utility company.
“Legally Bernheim cannot grant the natural gas pipeline and we would not grant an easement for a road either,” said Andrew Berry, the forest’s conversation director.
LG&E said the pipeline would only cover .03 percent of Bernheim and is far removed from the forest’s recreational areas.
“The full pipeline route was approved before Bernheim purchased its new property,” read a line from the utility company’s website.
For the highway study, the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet has paid for a $2 million highway study to determine the feasibility of a corridor from Interstate 65 in Bullitt County connecting to Interstate 71 in either Henry or Oldham County.
“A pipeline 75 feet wide and three-quarters of a mile is bad enough, but a 200, 300-foot wide highway cutting through our knobs, cutting through our streams and our fields and our forest would be a disaster,” Wourms said.
Bernheim is home to numerous species, including bats, snails, deer and coyotes.
While the highway study is ongoing, LG&E currently is in a legal battle with Bernheim to acquire property it needs for the pipeline, citing eminent domain. Bernheim officials are concerned if LG&E gets its way, it may set a precedent and pave an easier path for the road to be built if the transportation cabinet recommends the new road.
“We’re fighting this not just for Bernheim, but we’re fighting this for all the conservation land across Kentucky and beyond,” Berry said.
As the presentation ended, Berry and Wourms encouraged those in attendance to write letters to LG&E and the state transportation cabinet.
“Some of the legal cards are stacked against places like Bernheim, private individuals, private lands,” Wourms said. “And so where we want to really win this, is in the court of public opinion.”
A rally to bring awareness of the developments was held Friday in Louisville