Officials at Berea College announced that construction is set to begin this week on a Forest Outreach Center at the Indian Fort Trail and Forest.
Berea’s Forest Outreach Center will introduce visitors to the history of the College Forest and the mission of Berea College. With approximately 5,000 square feet, the building will include space to provide a curated description of the College Forest; a multi-purpose space that could be used as either a classroom or conference room for up to 80 people; a warming kitchen; public and private restrooms; and offices for the College Forestry Department staff.
The Forest Outreach Center will be usable for outreach to elementary and high school students, College students, and the broader community. The Outreach Center will serve as a “gateway” to the Berea College Forest. Plans call for the new building to be constructed on the east side of the parking lot at Indian Fort, just above the historic Forester’s House, which was once the residence of Professor Silas Mason. Mason began the process of acquiring the forest holdings and initiated the College’s forestry program in 1897 to provide an educational program, a source of wood, and income for the College.
More recently the College has developed a Forest Resource Management minor and established a working relationship with University of Kentucky’s Department of Forestry. The new Forest Outreach Center will provide for continued collaboration and allow more opportunities for partnering with other programs to provide additional and important field experience for our students.
After construction of the new Forest Outreach Center, a parallel project will focus on refurbishing the parking lot near the trailhead. Enhancements will include the installation of security lighting, re-paving to create a more efficient parking space layout, and improvement of sight lines at the entrance and exit on Big Hill road. Construction is targeted for completion by Spring 2017.
The College’s Indian Fort Trail and Forest, located just three miles from Berea’s campus, is popular year round among members of both the College and larger community, who enjoy hiking the trails and taking in many scenic views. Each year, the Berea College Forest is the site of three arts and crafts fairs. The City of Berea estimates that at least 30,000 out-of-town guests visit the Pinnacles and College Forest area each year.