Nature Preserve and Historic Homestead Has Something for Everyone
Writer / Gavin LaPaille
As executive director at Blackacre Conservancy, Dennis Craig wears many hats. Some nights you may find him out in the field unloading hay. On other nights he could be doing crowd monitoring at one of the many events Blackacre hosts. Perhaps Craig could be seen at your local hardware store, buying supplies for the latest project Kentucky’s first nature preserve is undertaking. With nearly 300 acres of land, farm animals and a homestead dating back over 200 years, there is always something that needs to be done at Blackacre.
Located off Blankenbaker Parkway near Jeffersontown, it’s open to visitors from sunrise to sunset seven days per week. Hiking, sightseeing, field trips, educational workshops and gardening are some of the activities the community can enjoy. Craig hopes to find new ways to get the community involved.
“We say we have something for everyone,” Craig says. “It’s a stress-free environment.”
A staff of about six people, mostly part time, keeps the historic homestead running day-to-day, but it’s those who donate their time and money who make Blackacre an ideal destination in Louisville. From all ages and backgrounds, Craig estimates volunteers are spending hundreds of hours each month to keep Blackacre operating. Volunteers fill roles such as cleaning the historic structures, performing maintenance, providing care for the farm animals, leading classes, assisting with summer camp or sharing Blackacre history with visitors.
Blackacre recently added a volunteer coordinator to connect people with the various service opportunities.
“Volunteers are the heart of what keeps Blackacre going,” says Susan Speece, Blackacre’s programs and events director. “Having volunteers who donate their services goes a long way. Businesses have offered their services for special projects, including electricians, heating and air, and technology companies.”
Craig doesn’t assign volunteers to random jobs, however. He wants everyone to feel part of Blackacre, while utilizing their skills and giving them opportunities to do what they enjoy.
“One of the things we try to do when we meet people is to learn more about them,” Craig says. “When they volunteer here, I want them to do something they want to do. I don’t want to put them in a position they don’t want to be in. I want to make sure their interests are aligned with what we have to offer.”
Craig also wants Blackacre to give back to the community by providing a safe and fun atmosphere for people to visit. Blackacre has opened the property for more events including the Sunday Sunset Music Series, a summertime concert experience featuring different styles of music. Country Christmas is their most popular event of the year, when families come to enjoy hayrides, meet Santa Claus, tour the holiday-decorated historic house and more.
“Volunteers go a long way into making sure these events are successful,” Craig says. “The more people we have for the events, the easier it is on everyone. It’s not like working concessions at big events that are crazy and hectic. Here it is so much more fun because you’re interacting with people and enjoying the atmosphere. Blackacre is a hidden treasure in Louisville. When people discover us, they immediately fall in love with the farm animals, the homestead’s history and beautiful trails.”
Blackacre Nature Preserve contains one of the county’s most complete 18th-century farm complexes – the Moses Tyler Homestead. It includes a stone cottage, a two-story limestone springhouse, and a double-crib, Appalachian-style log barn, all built from the land’s natural resources. The 230-year-old barn has stood the test of time, and children love to explore the structure.
The homestead is like an outdoor museum where people can walk through history. Visitors can experience a working farm and feed the goats, horses, sheep and cattle along the fence line.
The 1844 Presley Tyler farmhouse is open on select dates throughout the year. Docents dressed in period attire talk about the homestead’s beginnings, including its ties to the Revolutionary War and whiskey distillery operation.
Several repairs have been made to the historic structures and education center, improving the property and making it more appealing to visitors.
“We want Blackacre to look neat and presentable,” Craig says. “We don’t want things looking in a state of disrepair. People recognize that.”
Blackacre offers several trails, great for those looking to get outdoors. Numerous trails wind through fields and forests, and by streams and ponds. Blackacre provides a haven from the often-hectic pace of life and breathes serenity into the lives of all who come to visit. Visitors can choose to hike on their own or join one of the guided nature hikes held throughout the year.
Blackacre is home to Jefferson County’s largest community garden, with more than 400 plots of land available to rent. The garden has grown in popularity and includes nearly 300 gardeners.
“Beyond growing vegetables, people are cultivating friendships,” says Community Garden Manager Susan Ballerstedt.
Education is a major part of the Blackacre mission including field trips, after-school programs, summer camps and pre-K activities. Blackacre has partnered with LEAP Outside and Outside the Box Therapy to offer nature-based learning and playtime for pre-K and neurodivergent children. Story time with Miss Prim has been a huge success among children aged 2 to 7. She promotes movement, literacy and music in a park-like setting.
“The long-term success of Blackacre is dependent on volunteer and donor support of the community,” Craig says. “It takes a lot of resources and manpower maintain Blackacre. In 2022 we will focus on improving our preserve’s biodiversity and create a more balanced ecosystem. With an increase in neighborhood and industrial development, green space is vital for our community’s overall health and protecting our wildlife’s habitats. Volunteer support and funding is needed.”
To learn more about Blackacre and how you can get connected, go to visitblackacre.org and follow them on social media.