When Emily Harrison founded Fernbank in 1939, she named it after her favorite childhood haunt—a creek bank blanketed with ferns in the large forest that surrounded her home. Thanks to Harrison’s preservation efforts, today that 65-acre woodland is one of the largest old-growth forests in the Piedmont region and home to approximately 400 species of plants and wildlife. But in 2012, when Fernbank Museum took over management of the land from the Science Center, employees found that the original “fern bank” and the surrounding forest had become choked with invasive species. After four years of sorely needed ecological restoration, Fernbank Forest reopens this weekend. A new outdoor educational area, WildWoods, serves as a transition space between the museum and the forest, which will remain free of programming—other than the occasional guided walks and summer camps.
This article originally appeared in our September 2016 issue.