75 Acres of Outdoor Experiences Unveiled, Including Exhibitions and Increased Access to Fernbank Forest
ATLANTA, September 8, 2016 –Set to open early this fall, a vast living nature experience, including 10 acres of woodland adventures that will lead into 65 acres of urban Piedmont forest, will extend Fernbank Museum of Natural History’s offerings to the great outdoors. Featuring interactive exhibitions, elevated walkways, incredible vistas, a pollinator-friendly meadow, and a connector trail system to Fernbank Forest, the new WildWoods experiences will offer a nature exploration unlike any other major natural history museum in the country.
Located in the woodlands adjacent to Fernbank Museum, WildWoods is a distinctive experience that celebrates Atlanta’s rich topography and ecology, punctuating it with educational exhibitions that foster a greater understanding of and connection to nature. The learning experience includes the opportunity to explore vital components of the ecosystem, see and appreciate wildlife, and enjoy magnificent views and diversity of life in the Piedmont woodland. WildWoods includes ADA-accessible pathways and exhibits, suitable for all ages and abilities.
“Nearly a century ago, our founders formed Fernbank to preserve Fernbank Forest as a school in the woods for nature study. Now, connecting the museum directly to the forest through WildWoods fulfills our extraordinary legacy,” said Susan Neugent, President and CEO of Fernbank. “At its core, natural history is about reconnecting humans to nature, which is why the living laboratory of learning in WildWoods and Fernbank Forest is so timely today.”
WildWoods will offer breathtaking views of the natural world from Montgomery Highline Trace, an elevated boardwalk that winds through the trees and over the terrain. The walkway is highlighted by two nature-inspired tree pods nestled within the tree canopy – one representing a tulip poplar flower and the other a fern— that will offer intimate glimpses into the canopy and give a bird’s-eye view of the terrain and experiences below. One of the unique perspectives overlooks the Isdell Wildlife Sanctuary, a restored creek meadow that attracts birds, butterflies and other pollinators.
Other highlights include the Kendeda Pavilion, which will host guided programming at select times throughout the year and serve as a hub for Fernbank’s outdoor education programs. Interpretive rangers and volunteers will interact with visitors throughout their outdoor experiences, answering questions, leading hands-on activities and highlighting animals, plants, track ways and other keen observations for visitors.
“The immersive, hands-on exhibitions and experiences within WildWoods will help our visitors hone in on their observation skills and develop a better understanding of the beauty and complexity of the Piedmont region. By highlighting plants, animals, habitats and ecosystems, WildWoods will provide guests of all ages with a toolkit they can use to explore Fernbank Forest as well as other natural areas,” said Bobbi Hohmann, Fernbank’s VP of Education.
From WildWoods, visitors will have increased access to Fernbank Forest. As guests cross a new pathway and bridge, they will be met with the sights and sounds of the majestic old-growth Piedmont forest, including birds, small mammals, champion trees and more. This serene, dense, and almost magical oasis offers uninhibited views of its rare ecosystem, and an escape from the hustle and bustle of city life. At 65 acres, Fernbank Forest is the largest old-growth Piedmont forest in a major U.S. city.
Utilizing observational skills and knowledge acquired through WildWoods, guests will enjoy an informed meander through the forest, and a newfound closeness to and appreciation of nature. Thanks to intensive, ongoing restoration efforts to restore balance to this precious ecosystem, visitors will revel in the wonder of a newly healthier forest featuring a wealth of biodiversity.
Expanding the Museum’s offerings outdoors reignites the central, original mission of Fernbank— to preserve Fernbank Forest as a school in the woods for nature study. One of the oldest conservation-minded nonprofits in the US, Fernbank was established in 1939 to preserve and protect Fernbank Forest. An intentional element of WildWoods maintains that all of the new experiential exhibits are located within the woodlands next to the Museum, leaving the old-growth forest undisturbed and protected. WildWoods will serve as a captivating testament to Atlanta’s reputation as “A City in the Forest,” and ongoing restoration efforts in Fernbank Forest will ensure this reputation is upheld.
“The new adventures within WildWoods and Fernbank Forest will transform and expand the Fernbank experience in countless ways, particularly by introducing visitors to a rare preserve of natural land in the middle of the city,” Neugent said. “The oasis of this preserve will draw visitors of all ages, backgrounds and abilities, who seek the wondrous excitement and the restorative qualities of nature.”
HOURS AND TICKETS: WildWoods and Fernbank Forest are both included with Museum admission and are free for Museum members. Both features will open in early fall. The opening date will be announced soon. Museum admission is $18 for adults, $17 for seniors and $16 for children ages 3-12. Museum members and children ages 2 and younger receive free admission.
Fernbank Museum will expand its hours of operation for a limited window as part of the grand opening of WildWoods and Fernbank Forest. Fernbank Forest will close at 4:30pm, and the Museum closes at 5pm. WildWoods and Fernbank Forest will be open rain or shine, but may be closed in the event of dangerous conditions.
Fernbank Museum of Natural History is located at 767 Clifton Road NE in Atlanta. The Museum is open Monday – Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. Tickets and visitor information are available at fernbankmuseum.org.