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Ribbon-cutting held for outdoor classroom

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By Ron Benningfield

With the opening of an outdoor classroom pavilion Nov. 12, Bob Sims could check off as completed another goal he has been working on for the past 10 years.

“We’ve had several projects we’ve been working on at the Environmental, Education, and Research Center since LaRue County Fiscal Court purchased this property from the Pearman family,” said Sims, the county’s director of community and economic development.

The center, located three miles southeast of downtown Hodgenville, sits on 225 acres situated between Kentucky Highway 1794 (Leafdale Road) and McDougal Creek. 

Sims said Robert Pearman brought his family, eventually including 14 children, to live on the farm in 1921. In 1999, the court applied for funding from the Kentucky Land Conservation Fund to acquire and preserve the area for environmental education and research and passive recreational opportunities.

Fiscal Court, along with the Lincoln Trail Resource Conservation Development Council, the Kentucky Division of Forestry, and other organizations developed a Resource Management Plan to preserve the site’s woodlands, agriculture lands and wildlife habitat. 

The center serves as an outdoor classroom, providing educational opportunities in ecology, genetics, forestry, natural resource conservation and wildlife management. 

“We’ve got a nice hiking trail almost a mile long, and along the way are tree identification markers that offer an educational challenge or ‘guessing game’ to the viewers,” said Sims. “The marker will ask you to identify what type of tree, and it has a cover which you can lift to find the correct answer.”

Several benches along the trail offer places to rest or enjoy and observe the wildlife.

Sims said carpenters remodeled the Pearman house and have it available for educational use.

“Boy and Girl Scouts, school groups, and the Division of Forestry use the facilities for educational purposes, but until now, we had no outside restrooms nor a place to meet outside,” said Sims. “We now have this outdoor classroom with restrooms and six tables, handicapped accessible, where they can write and/or eat.”

Local builder Wesley Pearman constructed the pavilion and also refurbished a handicapped-accessible deck leading to the farmhouse.

Fiscal Court held a ribbon-cutting and reception last week for the facility.