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Fernbank Museum Pres. Says Forest is Safe

Plans to maintain Fernbank Forest are in the works

The rumor mill is flying with wide-ranging chatter that Fernbank Forest owners plan to knockdown the treasured forest to build an amusement park or convention center.

President and CEO Susan Neugent told Druid Hills residents Wednesday night there are no plans to bulldoze the 65-acre forest, which is owned by the museum.

Neugent said a plan is in the works to refurbish the forest and set a master plan to focus on general maintenance and upkeep.

Museum representatives will work with experts to draft the plan and update the public as more information is available, she said.

For the past 48 years, DeKalb County Schools and the — a separate entity from Fernbank Museum — operated the forest. The and the museum took over operations of the forest.

Access to the forest from Fernbank Science Center is closed, but Neugent said Fernbank Museum visitors will be able to access the forest in the coming months.

Watch the video posted above to hear Neugent’s full comments.

How would you like to see owners operate Fernbank Forest? Tell us in the comments!

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Robin Gaucher July 19, 2012 at 01:16 PM
I think it's really sad that the Natural History Museum cut off access to the forest from the Science center. The Science Center maintained the forest for almost 50 years, and when the lease was up, the Natural History Museum took back the forest and then cut the Science Center off from using it. Families and field trips to the science center could go for walks in the forest, not anymore. It's sad and just disrespectful to the Science Center and to all the people who support it and visit it, that the Natural History Museum would do that. One reason why I choose not to renew my membership there.
T Benefield July 19, 2012 at 06:24 PM
I am curious about the Museum's continued use of the phrase, "refurbish the forest." I'm not sure how you refurbish a forest that is free of any non-native plant species.
Barbara Baggerman July 19, 2012 at 06:25 PM
Cut it down??!! The largest remaining stand of urban old-growth forest in the eastern US? Surely you jest! It's a treasure. Open it back up to the public from both sides (the Science Center side and the Museum side), with more extended hours than they used to have, including evening daylight hours. Continue to allow free entry. Continue removing the English ivy and other invasive species, and restore native plant species. Consider removing the pavement from the paths and restoring them to natural dirt paths. Use the forest to educate the public about history (what the Piedmont was like when settlers arrived); about the benefits of trees (erosion protection and water filtration to keep our water clean, CO2 sequestration and oxygen production to keep our air clean, mitigation of the urban heat island effect, habitat and food source for myriad bugs and critters that are part of the food chain on which we all depend for life); and about the perils of deforestation (history of civilizations that failed due to deforestation; how our survival literally depends on their survival). Maintain it as a desperately-needed place where citizens can commune with nature.
Barbara Baggerman July 19, 2012 at 06:38 PM
It isn't free of non-natives. English ivy is probably its most pervasive invasive. They've made a big dent in it but still have a long way to go. Also some Chinese privet, leatherleaf mahonia (beautiful but somewhat out of control near the old house); probably bamboo, Japanese honeysuckle, kudzu, Japanese hops, and other invasive vines in less accessible areas such as downhill from the greenhouse.
johnk July 19, 2012 at 07:14 PM
Needs mountain biking trails ;)
Kim Hodgson July 20, 2012 at 03:33 PM
I would like to see the Museum carry on the work begun by the staff of the Science Center to maintain the forest in nearly pristine condition; continue to remove invasive non-native species, and continue to provide public access to the forest with the caveat that the public's use must have minimal impact on the flora and fauna of the forest -- in other words, no mountain bikes (sorry). In other words, I associate myself with all Ms. Baggerman's comments. Also (and I have a personal bias here), I would like to see the Hodgson House restored. Built by my grandfather and grandmother in 1914, it was turned over to Fernbank in the 1960s following my grandfather's death. Under the stewardship of cash-strapped DeKalb County it suffered badly, but I believe it is fundamentally sound. I understand that some of the interior trim that was removed was stored and may still be available for restoration purposes. There should also be a good photographic record of what the house was like in its heyday. Properly restored, it would be a wonderful place for the Museum to house visiting scholars; a great place for Museum and other non-profit events; and an attractive venue for weddings, bar mitzvahs and the like. It would be a shame to let that house, so representative of Druid Hills in the early 20th Century, to continue degrading to the point where it is no longer salvageable.

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