Saving Floyd’s Fork in Partnership with Forecastle Foundation, the Activism Arm of Forecastle Festival

When Forecastle Festival first began in 2022, it had a small budget, a handful of musicians, and a goal of reuniting with the local community. Celebrating its 20th year with three days of stellar music, the festival still remains true to its original goal and has even moved beyond to also support its local community through its activism arm, Forecastle Foundation. The foundation was launched in 2010 by Forecastle founder, JK McKnight, to protect and connect the world’s most biologically diverse and highly-threatened hot spots around the world. With the success of the festival, the Foundation has also grown, donating over $700,000 since 2010 to local and global conservation projects.

At this year’s festival, The Future Fund Lands Trust was present and educated attendees who stopped by the Foundation tent about the importance of saving Floyd’s Fork, one of the last remaining natural streams in Jefferson County. I was able to speak with one of the on-site representatives, Heather French Henry, to learn more about the organization. You can read the interview below, then learn how to get involved here!

We are here at Forecastle Festival with Heather of The Future Fund. Can you tell me more about the organization and its partnership with Forecastle Foundation?

What’s great about the Forecastle Foundation is they have picked environmentally conscious groups to partner with, not only locally here in Louisville, but also around the world. We happen to be one of their local partners. Our mission is to save Floyd’s Fork, which is a very large fork here in Jefferson and Bullitt Counties. We’re here to make people aware of the high-density development that’s happening along the fork. We’ve been doing this for over 30 years, so we’ve saved about 6,000 acres along the fork, including helping to create the Parklands of Floyd’s Fork. Organizations like Forecastle Foundation give grants each year to help us purchase land so we can maintain that mission.

What are some of the biggest hurdles the organization has faced?

A lot of it is maintaining what we call the DRO, the downzone area. My husband was Commissioner here in Louisville 30 years ago and they created this zone to protect Floyd’s Fork, where there was no development outside of agricultural land and already existing housing. Over the years, the health of the creek has grown because of the work we’ve done, and people want to live right on the creek or near The Parklands because they want to be near a beautiful area. Developers are coming in and taking a part of the floodplain land in exchange for another part of the land so they’re able to build.

Mother Nature put Floyd’s Fork where it is, so no matter where you think you’re “saving” land in order to develop elsewhere, it’s still harming the fork – fertilizers, blacktop, runoff – so we’re seeing more flash floods. Our hundred-year floodplain issue will be out-of-date in about 10 years, which then means any development within the floodplain will be out-of-date and in the floodway, which then leads to dangerous situations. We’ve seen an attitude of trying to circumvent restrictions and regulations that have been put in place, so we have a petition in place to make our venture council aware of what’s going on to vote against the zoning issues.

How do you balance having those conversations with people? There are so many stakeholders involved with different interests, so how do you let people know that this is important?

We’ve had these conversations with a lot of our local developers for so long that we’ve learned how to partner for responsible development, so our issue isn’t with the local people – it’s with the national and international people who want to build. Louisville is a city of parks, so our community has grown up with that nature mentality and it’s not a hard discussion with the people of Louisville. We’ve learned how to navigate discussions with politicians, for example, from an environmental standpoint. Once you blacktop an area, you never get that land back. You can’t make land.

Developers need to build for vision, not just to build. They need to look 50 years down the road to see what kind of community we’re trying to build and where we want to go.

It’s great that there are discussions happening about these conservation efforts at a place like Forecastle Festival. Sometimes people just aren’t aware of actions that can have large impacts, like protecting natural areas that capture and store carbon emissions.

Nothing will absorb carbon emissions like the ground and soil that we live on. Here in Kentucky, we’ve had no-till agriculture for 60 years. Our farmers are really at the forefront of that.

I’m very proud of Forecastle because, from its inception, JK McKnight always had a mission of conservation, so they’ve always used the hashtag “#naturallyawesome” and have always had an environmentally conscious mind. Forecastle has gone above and beyond. They have compost, recycle, and trash stations and have gone more towards QR codes. We’ve followed their lead and aren’t handing out pamphlets or paper postcards anymore. People can scan a QR code so we don’t use more resources that would wind up in the trash. I hope other music festivals follow Forecastle’s lead.

Elena Lin Administrator
I am a concert/festival photographer based in St. Louis. I’m always eager to travel for new music and experiences and to meet new faces!
Elena Lin Administrator
I am a concert/festival photographer based in St. Louis. I’m always eager to travel for new music and experiences and to meet new faces!

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