Wilderness Louisville, Inc. receives major funding to support the Louisville ECHO initiative

November 10, 2020

The Skylight Woods Fund at the Community Foundation of Louisville has granted $203,000 in funding to support and provide youth from diverse backgrounds with outdoor learning opportunities that increase their connection to and appreciation of nature 

November 10, 2020-  Wilderness Louisville, Inc., the non-profit partner that supports the Natural Areas Division of Louisville Parks and Recreation based at Jefferson Memorial Forest, has received a grant of $203,000 from the Skylight Woods Fund at the Community Foundation of Louisville to foster youth engagement in nature during the COVID-19 pandemic.  Program locations are based on health equity mapping, and one of the main goals is to provide these free opportunities for youth who may not otherwise have easy access to nature or nature-based programming.

“We are excited to work with the Community Foundation of Louisville as this generous grant from the Skylight Woods Fund will help our youth to understand and respect nature and the environment,” said Mayor Greg Fischer. “Outdoor learning can improve social skills and lift moods for families and their budding nature lovers, especially during this pandemic.”

This funding will support the Louisville is Engaging Children in Nature Initiative (Louisville ECHO) and provide hundreds of youth with dozens of outdoor education, recreation and stewardship opportunities this fall and during the spring of 2021.  Activities provided are implemented in adherence with applicable COVID-19 safety restrictions in place at the time of programming.

“Louisville ECHO is a nationally recognized outdoor education initiative that has provided thousands of Louisville youth the chance to have fulfilling and fun experiences outdoors,” said Dana Kasler, Director of Parks and Recreation.   “We’re thankful the Skylight Woods Fund has recognized the important work that Jefferson Memorial Forest and Wilderness Louisville are doing and are committed to help that continue.”

Expanding Louisville ECHO programming is a key goal of Louisville Metro’s West Louisville Outdoor Recreation Initiative, which proposes outdoor infrastructure improvements to create safe spaces for nature exploration in west Louisville.  Improvements, some of which are completed, include a proposed regional facility in Shawnee Park – the Shawnee Outdoor Learning Center. This funding will help activate two of these new outdoor amenities including the nearly completed boat ramp and the bicycle pump track adjacent to the Louisville Loop trailhead, both of which are located in Shawnee Park.

Some of the recreational supplies that will be purchased with this funding include bicycles and 10-person Voyageur canoes.  “Purchase of these supplies will not only serve programming this fall and coming spring, but have the added benefit of allowing us to offer more frequent outdoor recreational programming in west Louisville moving forward,” Kasler said.

Implementation of program activities will build upon longstanding partnerships between Jefferson Memorial Forest, community centers and YouthBuild Louisville.  Activities scheduled November include various outdoor environmental education/interpretation activities, fishing, archery, biking, birding, orienteering, fire building, canoeing and tree planting at various park locations, such as Jefferson Memorial Forest and along the Louisville Loop.

“Wilderness Louisville is very appreciative of this critical and timely funding support from the Skylight Woods Fund at the Community Foundation of Louisville,” said Wilderness Louisville Board Member JoAnn James. “Our vision is that nature-related outdoor programming is available for all Louisville youth and that’s why Wilderness Louisville is such an advocate for the Louisville ECHO program and the related infrastructure improvements, such as the proposed Shawnee Outdoor Learning Center, which will allow the ECHO program to serve more youth.”

Beechmont, California, Southwick and Sun Valley community centers are the current locations from which programming has been scheduled pending current COVID recommendations.  At present, Jefferson County’s status of red zone limits in-person programming.  As status improves, a program capacity limit of 10 participants including staff would apply.  Information on program reservations may be directed to Jefferson Memorial Forest program staff (502-366-5432).


Wilderness Louisville, Inc. (WL) is the 501(c)(3) non-profit that raises funds in support of the Louisville Parks and Recreation Department’s Natural Areas Division, based at the 6,800-acre Jefferson Memorial Forest (JMF). Wilderness Louisville’s Mission is to be the champion for Louisville’s natural areas, from the nation’s largest municipally-owned deciduous urban forest, Jefferson Memorial Forest, to the ones in your backyard. Since its inception in 2013, WL has raised funds to support land conservation and capital facility improvement and ecological restoration activities. Wilderness Louisville’s board is committed to promoting equitable access to the outdoors and since 2015 it has provided over $131,500 to sustain and grow the Louisville ECHO program and enhance opportunities in the community.  Find out more at www.wildernesslouisville.com and on Facebook www.facebook.com/wildernesslouisville.


The 6,800-acre Jefferson Memorial Forest, a woodland tribute to those Kentucky veterans who have served our nation during times of war, is Jefferson County’s largest nature preserve and one of the largest municipal urban forests in the nation.  The Forest is the headquarters of Louisville Parks and Recreation’s Natural Areas Division which is entrusted with providing stewardship, nature-based educational programming, and outdoor recreation within 7,228 acres of forest, meadow, and riparian habitat across Louisville Metro. The Forest is responsible for implementing the Louisville ECHO Program. Learn more at www.memorialforest.com and www.louisvilleecho.com , on Facebook www.facebook.com/jmfnaturalareas,  on Youtube, and on Instagram @jeffersonmemorialforest


Louisville Parks and Recreation, a nationally accredited parks and recreation agency, manages 120 parks and six parkways on more than 13,000 acres of land, and operates recreation programs for all ages.  Its mission is to create a City of Parks where people can play, learn, grow and be healthy.  The mission is accomplished by taking care of all parks properties and creating new ones, by providing safe and diverse recreational programs, and by protecting our public lands and resources for future generations. Learn more at  www.bestparksever.com


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