Meet the BT Stitchers

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The BT Stitchers, from l-r, include Hattie Downs, Ruth Morrow and Elsie Trowell. 

By Walter Munday
Outreach Manager
E-mail Walter

Hattie Downs, Ruth Morrow and Elsie Trowell are avid sewers and knitters.

They participate in a program at the Watson Powell Senior Center (an affiliate of the Berrytown Recreation Center) known as BT Stitchers, which is a sewing group that teaches anyone from children to seniors how to sew. The program began approximately ten years ago by Downs who, at the time, had recently retired from UPS. She wanted to recast her career as a volunteer.

BT Stitchers has made curtains for homes built by Hand in Hand Ministries in Belize, pillows and blankets for neighborhood children, as well as mend uniforms donated to nearby Middletown Elementary School. The group has also made gloves and hats to go with coats that were given away as part of the Santa Train, which gives presents to children in Appalachia.

In 2013, Downs was a WLKY Bell Award winner as well as a Metro Volunteer Service Award. Currently, there are about 17 participants in the program. Average daily attendance is about 7-8. Several of the participants in Metro Parks & Recreation’s Adapted and Inclusive Recreation (AIR) program participants have recently started to participate. Downs, along with Morrow and Trowell are usually at the Watson Powell Building daily sewing and knitting.

If you’re interested in learning more about this program, and/or other programs at the Berrytown Recreation Center, contact Brent Priddy at 456-8148, or log onto: https://louisvilleky.gov/government/parks/berrytown-recreation-centerhome-air-program.

Dedicated volunteers celebrated at Riverside, the Farnsley-Moreman Landing

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By Walter Munday

Outreach Manager
E-mail Walter

Riverside, the Farnsley-Moremen Landing hosted their annual Volunteer Appreciation Dinner on Tuesday, February 28, 2017, to honor their dedicated 2016 Volunteers.

Approximately 60 people attended the event including State Representative Charlie Miller and Louisville Metro Councilwoman Cindi Fowler.

Here are some of the highlights:

  • Trisha Smith-Kolb was unanimously awarded the Riverside, the Farnsley-Moremen Landing 2016 Volunteer of the Year.
  • Volunteers range from age 9 to 90.
  • Riverside hosted several community events in 2016. Those include: Riverside Plant & Herb Sale, Mayor’s Derby Brunch On the River, Family Farm & Forage Day, Ice Cream Social, Halloween Trick or Treat and Old-Fashioned Family Holiday Festival.

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    Councilwoman Cindi Fowler, left, joined volunteers at this year’s celebration at Riverside. 
  • Riverside welcomed 56,834 people to the property in the last calendar year.
  • Riverside had at least 198 individuals volunteer here over the course of the year. They included all of the regular volunteers as well as large groups from GE and Humana for special project days.
  • Total volunteer hours worked are estimated to be at least 2,745 for 2016!  Volunteers help with mailings, tours of the historic house, school field trips, summer cultural pass days, special events, office work and gardening.

Riverside and Historic Locust Grove are the two historic properties operates by Louisville Metro Parks and Recreation.

Studio 2000 Deadline Extended to March 24!

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By Ehren Reed
Outreach Program Manager, Louisville Visual Art
E-mail Ehren

Studio 2000 is a partnership between Louisville Metro Parks and Louisville Visual Art that allows high school students who are interested in pursuing visual art as a career to have the opportunity to work with professional artists in one of four focus areas— clay, fiber, mixed media or the first-ever mural art track! Students are not only provided with high-quality instruction throughout the course, but they also receive a $500 stipend at the end of the eight-week program. Studio 2000 will be offered this summer from June 12 through August 3, 2017 on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3:00 pm until 6:00 pm at Shawnee Arts & Cultural Center, 607 South 37th Street.

In 2001, the City of Louisville’s Office of Youth Development created Studio 2000 to connect teens with a passion for art with professional artists. The initiative was modeled after a similar program in Chicago. At its peak Studio 2000 had over 100 students participating each summer, but in 2008 due to budget cuts during the recession the program went dormant, but we are thrilled that it has been revitalized through a new partnership with Louisville Visual Art.

Since its resurrection in 2015, Studio 2000 has seen 40 talented young artists ignite their passions, develop their skills and bring their artwork into the public eye. Working under the guidance of dynamic teaching artists, Studio 2000 apprentice artists create functional and marketable artwork from tableware to jewelry to clothing. The teaching artists work with the students to explore new and unusual techniques, while placing a strong emphasis on craftsmanship, resulting in unique, high-quality artwork.

“Thanks to the Studio 2000 program hundreds of young artists have received exposure and seen their talents nurtured,” Mayor Greg Fischer said. “We appreciate the efforts of these students, teachers, and LVA. I’m looking forward to seeing their work at the sale and show this summer. It’s exciting to see a new generation of professional artists being cultivated.”

Past participants in the program have experienced tremendous growth in their skills and confidence throughout the course of the summer. With field trips to galleries and museums, visits by local guest artists and supportive critiques, this unique program invites students to experience life as a working studio artist while spending the summer with other passionate and creative young people.

Studio 2000 participant Ella Gorstein said “I have learned so much from Studio 2000! Being in this program has been a truly amazing opportunity, something I never would have dreamed I could be a part of. I’ve met other amazing artists, received very helpful critiques, made pieces I’m proud of, and had the most fun summer I’ve ever had. I can’t wait to apply my new skills to school and careers in the future. I’m so glad to have been a part of this great class, and am very grateful to the instructors who made it happen!”

We are so thrilled to welcome another group of exceptional students to the Studio 2000 program this summer! Our teaching artists have innovative projects planned that will stretch and expand our students’ skills and creativity in a way that a traditional classroom rarely does.  The program will come together for a public exhibition and sale at the end of the summer that brings proceeds back to Studio 2000 to support future programming.

Students who are interested in participating in Studio 2000 may apply on LVA’s website– the application deadline has been extended until March 24. Students who progress to the next round will be invited for a portfolio review and interview in late March and accepted students will be notified in early April.

Massive restoration effort to preserve history at Portland Wharf Park

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By Walter Munday
Outreach Manager
e-mail Walter 

Before highways and railroads, the river served the great transportation needs of a young nation. Though smoother and faster than travel by foot, river travel was fraught with danger and delay. One such obstacle was located on the river near Portland and Louisville where travelers encountered the dangerous 28-foot drop at the Falls of the Ohio.

General William Lytle of Cincinnati owned the land next to the harbor below the Falls and in 1811 laid out the town of Portland. He planned to sell the lots to finance his plan to build a canal around the Falls. The town grew as travelers portaged around the Falls and later when steamboats made it possible to come up river.

Later, the port served as the terminus of the New Orleans run. Lytle never fulfilled his dream of building a canal but in 1829, an innovative three-tier lock system allowed the Louisville and Portland canal to by-pass the Falls. The reduced time and effort to pass the Falls improved river traffic and the Portland Wharf expanded into a bustling riverside town.

Today, Metro Parks serves to protect and share this rich maritime past of Portland Wharf Park through the support of partners in the Portland community. Plans for sharing important resources include interpretive exhibits and educational opportunities within and outside the park boundaries. Archaeological and Interpretive work is conducted in cooperation with the Portland Museum, the University of Kentucky and the Kentucky Archaeological Survey.

Portland Wharf Park preserves the remains of the original and oldest part of the town of Portland once a thriving and bustling nineteenth century river town. The park encompasses 55 acres (consisting of six city blocks) along the banks of the Ohio River, just below the Falls, and the entrance to the Portland Canal. It is primarily a forested environment with dense trees and undergrowth interrupted by symmetrical swaths of mowed grass and an open meadow.

The site is bound by a railroad bridge on the east, the Ohio River on the north, a golf course on the west, and an earthen levee and elevated interstate highway on the south. Portland Wharf Park is designated as a National Historic Landmark, and is maintained by Louisville Metro Parks and Recreation. The archaeological remains of the town (Portland Proper), including streets, sidewalks, building foundations, privies, cisterns, and thousands of artifacts dating from the early 1800s to the early 1900s are preserved in several areas of the site.

The largest threat to the preserving this site is the unstable riverbank as shown in photos like the one below:

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To address this issue, the US Army Corp of Engineers has evaluated the streambank erosion problems along the Ohio River within the Portland Wharf Park boundary heading westward along the paved river walk (Louisville Loop) trail, and have located two erosion locations within River Mile 607.4 and 607.6.

In addition, similar erosion issues exist between River Mile 610.1 and 610.6. The Riverbank Stabilization Project at Portland Wharf Park is set to begin this spring.

Recent photos in this post were taken Tuesday, February 14, 2017, as part of a coordinated effort between the US Corp of Engineers and Louisville Metro Parks and Recreation to rescue historical stone materials from the original Portland Wharf.

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The stones will be used for future interpretive elements at park.

What’s in a name? William H. Britt Park established in 1975

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By Walter Munday
Outreach Manager
E-mail Walter

William H. Britt Park was originally named MINI-PARK B by the City of Louisville and the Metropolitan Parks and Recreation Board in 1971 with a permanent name to follow.

Prior to becoming a park, the site formally consisted  of many single family, bungalow-type, dwellings which were substandard and at the request of the neighborhood organization, the property was acquired and designed to meet the needs of the elderly residents who desired a passive open space.

It is across the street from Elliott Park, a 3.9 acre piece of land which provides multi-recreational facilities.

In 1975, following a request from Mary Green, a member of the Russell Area Council, MINI-PARK B was renamed in honor William H. Britt.

Mr. Britt was a strong and dedicated neighborhood leader in the Russell Neighborhood, and had spearheaded the efforts to create the park.   Mr. Britt was one of original members of the Russell Area Council.

So… following a vote from the Louisville Board of Alderman, MINI-PARK B became William H. Britt Memorial Park.

What’s in a name? Russell Lee Park a testament to political leader’s legacy

russell-lee-parkBy Walter Munday
Outreach Manager
E-mail Walter 

Russell Lee Park in west Louisville is the home of the Southwick Community Center and is situated near the Villages of Park DuValle neighborhood. But, who was Russell Lee?

Russell P. Lee was a local elected official, veteran, and a probation officer who was active in working with the youth throughout Louisville.

He was first elected to the Board of Alderman in 1960-61.  He was a veteran of World War II, and a Jefferson County Probation Officer.

According to the Kentucky African American Encyclopedia.

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Russell P. Lee

 

Alderman Lee joined Louise Reynolds as the first African-Americans ever elected to the city’s Board of Alderman. Lee served the 8th Ward.

He was a native of Elizabethtown, Ky.  In addition to politics, Lee was a real estate manager, a former supervisor for the National Youth Administration, an advertising representative for the Louisville Defender.

Lee died of cancer at Louisville’s General Hospital in 1965 at the age of 57 while serving in his second term as a Louisville Alderman.

Three years following his death, a park at 35th & Southern Avenue was named in his honor.             

African-American History Month series: Hays Kennedy Park

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NOTE: This is the first in a series of articles highlighting African-American history throughout Louisville’s parks system.

By Walter Munday
Outreach Manager
E-mail Walter

In the aftermath of one of our city’s worst natural disasters in recorded history (1974 Tornado), a beacon of light shined along the banks of the Ohio River in northeast Louisville.  Approximately three months after that infamous tornado, neighborhood and church leaders joined elected and park officials to dedicate the then-new Hays Kennedy Park on July 27, 1974.

Before Jefferson County Fiscal Court purchased the 78 acres in February 1969, the land was originally owned by James S. and Bettie L. Taylor (now Bettie Johnson).  Mr. Taylor was the son of James T. Taylor, a local entrepreneur who grew up in Harrods Creek to become a farmer, a school bus driver, a road and bridge builder, quarry owner and president of the James T. Taylor Real Estate Company.  The elder Taylor is credited for developing the traditionally African-American neighborhood following the purchase of the A. E. Shirley farm (Shirley Avenue) around 1920. He is believed to have been the state’s first licensed African American realtor.  The younger Taylor and his wife purchased the property adjacent to his father’s land from the Bass Family (Bass Road).

Prior to purchase of the land, the old Jefferson County Playground and Recreation Board, under the leadership of Charlie Vettiner, helped coordinate recreational programs at the Harrods Creek Recreation Center; formerly the Jacob Colored School building on Jacob School Road.  Mr. Vettiner believed strongly that it was important for the communities surrounding those parks to be actively involved with recreational programs.  He believed that partnering with the community would instill ownership in the programs and the parks.  Later, the Prospect-Harrods Creek Optimist Club and the Prospect-Harrods Creek Park and Recreation Association, Inc. stepped forward.

One of the most faithful volunteers was Ms. Hays Robinson Kennedy.  Ms. Kennedy was a “nurturing soul” who loved children.  Not having any biological children of her own, she adopted all of the kids in the neighborhood – black and white.  She coordinated activities for the young people in the neighborhood.  Ms. Edith Edmondson, a lifelong resident of the Harrods Creek, was one of those neighborhood kids, and vividly remembers Ms. Kennedy and the cross-town softball games between the J-town and Newburg Centers.

“Ms. Kennedy loved kids.  She was definitely committed to volunteer service.  She worked hard to coordinate activities for the kids and raise money for programs and playground equipment,” Ms. Edmonson said.

Ms. Kennedy was born Hays Robinson to Henry and Louise Robinson on March 1, 1893, in Louisville, Kentucky.  She was the sixth of nine children. She was a longtime member of Lampton Baptist Church, and started attending Harrods Creek Baptist Church when she married Calvin Kennedy on November 23, 1923.  Mr. Kennedy was the brother of Rev. Harrison Kennedy who was a founding member and pastor of Harrods Creek Baptist Church on River Road.  Mr. Kennedy died in October of 1966.  At Harrods Creek Baptist Church, she participated as a Watchcare member for 45 years before she moved her membership permanently as part of a promise to Rev. C. Owens, her pastor at Lampton Baptist Church who asked her not to move her membership as long as he lived.

For most of her life, Ms. Kennedy performed domestic work.  Ms. Lonzetta Howard, a long-time member of Harrods Creek neighborhood, remembers working with her at W.L. Lyons and Sally Brown’s home. She remembered that she was such a loving person.  Ms. Kennedy also worked for more than 20 years at St. Francis in the Fields Church on Wolf Pen Branch Road from 1948 to until 1971.  Ms. Kennedy left St. Francis when her sister’s illness necessitated her care.

Meme Sweets Runyon, Executive Director, River Fields, fondly remembers Ms. Kennedy when she attended nursery school at St. Francis in the Fields Church.  Ms. Runyon remembers how kind and gentle Ms. Kennedy was.  “She was adored by everyone,” Runyon said.  She went on to say that one of the things she remembers most about Ms. Kennedy was that she used to “flip” cookies to her while she was at school.

On November 15, 1972, the Prospect-Harrods Creek Optimist Club was formed.  Its charter membership was intentionally developed to be racially-balanced with the purpose of “busying themselves with youth programs in the area”, as noted in the Prospect News, a local newspaper published in the area.  Some of the members included: Matthew Coomer, Stuart Kane, Cordell P. Franklin, Alex Jones, Frank Clay, Sr., F. Deedom Alston, William Kellar, William E. Taylor, Charles Wilson, Bill Bartley, James Bond, George A. Roberts, Martin Dunbar, Jr. and Steve Rauh.

Their first big project was to develop the newly identified park.  Several local churches, including Green Castle Baptist Church, Harrods Creek Baptist Church, and St. Francis in the Field Episcopal Church, joined the Prospect-Harrods Creek Optimist Club, and the Metropolitan Parks and Recreation Department to name the park.  On Saturday, July 27, 1974, their dreams were realized with the dedication of the Hays Robinson Kennedy Park.  A memorial now stands at the park with the following biblical passage printed on it which reads “suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not:  for such is the Kingdom of God”.

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A copy of the original flyer distributed in 1974 promoting the official dedication service.

On that day, Congressman Ron Mazzoli, Marlow Cook (representing Governor Julian

Carroll), County Judge-Executive Todd Hollenbach and County Commissioners Tom Helm, Ray Kirchdorfer and Glen McDonald, William Summers, and Metro Parks Director Carl Bradley, joined area clergy, neighbors and friends as they gathered to honor Ms. Hays Kennedy, and take part in the dedication service.

Following the dedication, the momentum continued to move forward.  The Prospect-Harrods Creek Park and Recreation Association was formed, and even the Hays Kennedy Park Foundation was created in the late 70’s and early 80’s which raised money to build the concession stand and some of the courts at the park.  Their big dream was to raise enough money to build a community center, but unfortunately that never happened.  Two names prominent for spearheading the fundraising efforts are Ms. Velma Booth and Lois Troyer McGrath.)

After more than a half-century of service to the Harrods Creek neighborhood Ms. Kennedy passed away on January 15, 1985, at the age of 91.  A Courier-Journal article (date/author unknown) I found in our files here at Metro Parks highlights Ms. Kennedy’s volunteer service.  The short article is titled “Fund-raiser for Children”.  It calls attention to Ms. Kennedy’s simple fundraising techniques, which often included regular collecting of bottles along the side of the road, and organizing fish fries and ice cream socials, all to raise money for playground equipment and youth programs.

Her love and commitment to helping others resounds loudly through the many voices and memories of those with whom I spoke who remembered Ms. Kennedy.  While many of our parks carry the name of Indian tribes, former politicians, explorers, and philanthropists, Hays Kennedy Park bears the name of a “good shepherd” whose unyielding sacrifice and perseverance are an everlasting testament to her legacy.

A famous quote from a famous French/Cuban poet comes to my mind.  It reads…

“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”

Hays Kennedy Park is located off River Roa,  Bass Road to Beachland Beach Road.   It has a paved walking path, a picnic shelter with restrooms, lighted tennis courts, basketball courts, new playground, ball-fields and so much more.  Hays Kennedy Park is adjacent to the Garvin Brown Preserve, a 46-acre nature preserve owned and preserved by River Fields.  Garvin Brown Preserve is open to the public from dawn until dusk daily.  Please take time out to visit Hays Kennedy Park and/or one of our 121 other parks.

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