What’s in a name? Sheppard Park

What’s in a name? Sheppard Park

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The picnic pavilion in Sheppard Park, located in Louisville’s Russell Neighborhood

By Walter Munday
Metro Parks and Recreation Outreach Manager
e-mail Walter

Sheppard Park is located a 1601 Magazine Street in Louisville’s Russell Neighborhood.  The park is listed at 1.93 acres, and was acquired in 1925.  Sheppard Park was named for Rev. William Henry Sheppard, a Presbyterian Minister of Grace Hope Presbyterian Church in the Smoketown Neighborhood.  Sheppard is renowned for this Human Rights work in the Congo in the late 1800’s/early 1900’s.

Sheppard Square Public Housing Development was also named in honor of Rev. Sheppard.  Sheppard’s Square was located in the historic Smoketown neighborhood. The site was comprised of 16.5 acres and is bordered by Finzer, Clay, Lampton and Preston Streets. Construction of the original Sheppard Square buildings was completed in 1942. At the time of grant award, the site included 326 apartments. The rich history of the Sheppard Square site and the surrounding Smoketown neighborhood is featured in More than Bricks and Mortar: the Sheppard Square Story, a documentary by local filmmaker Lavel White.

In 2011, it was announced that Sheppard’s Square would become Louisville’s third HOPE VI project.  The program used a $22 million federal grant to leverage $74.5 million in additional investment and resources to replace the aging public housing unit with mixed-use, affordable housing developments.

Sheppard Park was acquired in 1925, three years before Rev. Sheppard’s death.  This is one year following the segregation of city parks.  Sheppard Park was one of first three parks opened to African Americans, which also included Chickasaw Park and Seminole Park (a victim of airport relocation).

Mayor Wilson W. Wyatt was on hand to dedicate the new Sheppard Park, which offered a playground, swimming pool, tennis courts, a restroom and ball fields and courts for residents in the surrounding African American neighborhood.

William Henry Sheppard 
Congo’s African-American Livingstone

Born March 8, 1865 in Waynesboro, Virginia, William Henry Sheppard, a black man, was never a slave. His mother was of mixed-race background, which status made him a free black. His father was an employee of the local all-white Presbyterian Church, serving as janitor. Growing up, he was enrolled in the local school for blacks. Showing great resolve, he next enrolled at the Hampton Institute in 1880 in Hampton, Virginia, where Booker T. Washington was one of his instructors. Then graduating from Hampton in 1883, he moved on to the Tuscaloosa Theological Seminary (now Stillman College). After graduation in 1886, he became an ordained Presbyterian minister in the Presbyterian Church in the United States.

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Dr. William H. & Lucy G. Sheppard. Charcoal portrait by Greg MacNair, 2005. Used by permission. [This portrait hangs just outside the reading room of the PCA Historical Center.] 

Becoming a pastor at Zion Presbyterian Church in Atlanta, Georgia, Shepherd found himself restless and applied with the PCUS Mission board to go to the Congo as a missionary. When several applications received only vague rejections, Rev. Sheppard finally traveled to the headquarters and applied in person. Prejudices died hard in the former Confederacy, and this was evident by their initial refusal and final acceptance. He could go to the Congo as a foreign missionary, but only if a white missionary would supervise him. To his surprise, a young white minister by the name of Samuel Lapsley, volunteered to go with him in that position. They sailed to the Congo on February 25, 1890. Despite what the mission board stated at home, these two missionaries soon were treating each other as equals. Arriving at what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo, they set about founding a mission in a village known as Luebo. Despite contracting malaria numerous times, Shepherd managed to adapt to the African climate and setting far better than did Lapsley, who died of a fever after only two years on the field, in 1892.

Of Lapsley’s death, Rev. Shepherd wrote,

“Before this time you will have learned of the Mission’s loss. My friend and brother left Luebo, Jan. 6th, 1892, for the Lower Congo to attend to some business about the transport, and our land. He thought also a change would be beneficial to him, expected to return by the next steamer. I went forth with the people to do some building that our home might be more comfortable. For those two years we have labored as one. We have loved and cared for each other as though we were brothers. We have never been separated only this once, and it grieves my heart that I was so far from him. Oh! that I could have kneeled by his side to catch the last whisper before he slept. [The Missionary, 25.10 (Oct. 1902): 415]. ”

Shepherd learned the language of the natives, which in turn enabled him to discover parts of the Congo where no outsiders had visited. He even found himself in a village of King Luckenga, which presence was in itself equivalent to a death sentence. However, Shepherd’s fluency in the language persuaded the king’s family that he was a reincarnation of one of their dead relatives.

In 1893, Sheppard left Africa to travel to London, England. He met Queen Victoria and was inducted into England’s Royal Geographic Society. Back in the United States, he lectured all over the States. Marrying Lucy Gantt, whom he had met just after he had graduated from the theological institute, they started a family. Expanding the first mission, they started a second Congo mission. When two of their children succumbed in disease, Lucy in 1898 took their third baby back to the United States, where they remained for two years.

In the next year, there was a new challenge. Shepherd began to notice the exploitation of the black tribes under the colonial ruler, Belgium, and specifically King Leopold II of Belgium. In essence, it was slavery in all of its terrible forms, with atrocities right and left. Specifically, Belgium rubber companies were exploiting the land and its people, Sheppard recounted incredible violence including murder and mutilation. The Presbyterian Church had a spiritual interest in that part of the world, but it also was concerned with these human rights issues. In 1908, Sheppard brought the national colonial government to task, with pressure through the media.  Sheppard’s victory secured his status as an international human rights advocate.

Sheppard returned to the United States and he and his family moved to Louisville, Kentucky, in 1912 where he had been recruited by Louisville’s Grace Hope Presbyterian Church to become their next pastor.  He was officially installed as the church pastor on September 15, 1912.  He pastored Grace Hope for 27 years.   According to the Encyclopedia of Louisville, Sheppard’s presence as a well-known and respected black minister brought new life to the church and the Smoketown community.  Not only Smoketown, but Sheppard led Grace Hope to become the center for black Presbyterian leadership in Kentucky.  Sheppard spoke around the city raising money for the church’s mission work in the black community.

In 1924, three years before his death, Sheppard Park in the Russell Neighborhood was opened and named in his honor.  This is the same year that city officials officially segregated parks.  Sheppard Park was one of three parks opened to African Americans which also included Chickasaw Park.  Mayor Wilson W. Wyatt was on hand to dedicate the new Sheppard Park, which offered a playground, swimming pool, and green space for residents in the surrounding African American neighborhood.      Along the way Sheppard wrote a book titled “Black Livingstone,” which recounts the explorer’s difficult return to the United States, a racially divided world where even his white colleagues, who knew of his impressive accomplishments, considered him inferior. It states: “Sheppard found it necessary to repackage himself as a humble Sunday school teacher.”

Sheppard was also known for his appreciation for African Art.  Several of the pieces he collected are housed in the J.B. Speed Art Museum and at the Hampton Institute in Hampton, VA.

Sheppard died in on November 25, 1927. More than 1,000 people attended his funeral.  He was eulogized by both black and white clergy alike.  Fifteen years later, when the $1.4 million Sheppard Square (named in his honor) was completed and dedicated with great fanfare, one of Sheppard’s colleagues at the church wrote in a memo: “May his name be a constant inspiration to the occupants of these homes.”

In an LEO article in 2011 following the announcement of a $22 million HUD HOPE VI Revitalization grant to demolish Sheppard’s Square, Dr. J. Blaine Hudson, who’s studied Rev. Sheppard extensively, offered this comment,

“I don’t think Sheppard would’ve been pleased with the project becoming more of a dead end to people rather than a launching pad for people to go on to other, better things.”

Park Workers’ heroism, quick thinking save capsized boater

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(pictured, from left: Ron Mills, Tyler Piccuito and Matt Blankenship. Not pictured is Jimmy McCoy)

from Metro Parks and Recreation staff
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Four Metro Parks and Recreation Forestry Division workers displayed bravery and quick thinking on the afternoon of Dec. 27, 2016, as they saved a man from drowning and hypothermia exposure at Long Run Lake.

At approximately 3:30 p.m. on Dec. 27, a passer-by stopped the crew, consisting of Matt Blankenship (Forestry Supervisor 1), Tyler Piccuito (Forester I), Ron Mills (Forestry Supervisor 1) and Jimmy McCoy (Forestry Supervisor II), and alerted them that the man had fallen from the boat near the Long Run Lake Dam and was clutching its side in the frigid water.

Immediately, Blankenship, Piccuito, Mills and McCoy took action, locating the man near the dam, on the eastern portion of the lake. They entered the water and pulled the man to shore when instinct and training took over, taking off his wet clothes and then covering him with their own dry clothes, including their jackets, to keep him warm and calm before the Anchorage Fire Department and EMS showed to assist.

The man, was taken to the hospital by EMS, was treated and released.

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Jimmy McCoy

“I’m very proud of these men for recognizing the danger this citizen found himself in, and for the quick and decisive action they took in possibly saving his life,” Parks and Recreation Director Seve Ghose said. “It’s also a testament to what type of guys these are that they didn’t take a split second to consider the danger they were placed in. They simply saw someone who was in need – and allowed that to become their immediate priority without regard to their own safety.”
Blankenship, Piccuito, Mills and McCoy are the second Metro Parks and Recreation crew to assist in a dangerous situation within the last several months. On August 18, park workers Ricky Duncan and Bryan Haynes lifted a vehicle off a man who was pinned beneath in the Clifton Neighborhood, saving him from serious injury.

“It’s good for all of our employees to be aware of what to do when placed in a challenging situation outside their core duties,” Ghose said. “Our primary goal is to serve the public. You never know what you might be faced with in that capacity, and these are two great examples of what our workers are capable of doing when the situation calls for it.”

Beechmont Community Center: a hub for table tennis in Louisville

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By Walter Munday
Outreach Manager
e-mail Walter

Louisville is the home of many state champions. Most notable are those who’ve performed on the basketball court, in the boxing ring, or the baseball/football fields. But we’d like to recognize some other local champions and award winners. Louisville Metro Parks & Recreation is proud to recognize John Allen, Lewis Klien, William Hart, Shirin Rafizadeh, Jack Allen, Raymond Ho, Mark Meade, Jimmy Khong, Yao Chen, and Yueling Zhang. These are the TTCL medal winners from this year’s Kentucky Bluegrass State Games in July who participate at the Beechmont Community Center in South Louisville.

Table Tennis is just one of many events which take place at the Bluegrass State Games, which was designed to provide Kentuckians of all ages and skill levels a wholesome avenue for positive and healthy development through sports and physical activity, while promoting and developing amateur athletics to provide the amateur athlete an opportunity to showcase his/her talent and receive statewide recognition.

Kevin Kinney, Recreation Supervisor, Beechmont Community Center, invited me out to meet some of the players, and take a few pictures.   Beechmont is the hub for the Table Tennis Club of Louisville (TTCL). Beechmont, through TTCL, offers table tennis matches at the center.

“The cultural diversity and intergenerational aspects of the Beechmont Community Center table tennis program is amazing,” said Kinney.

Raymond Ho is one of the Bluegrass State Games Table Tennis Medal Winners. On Tuesday, after winning his first match against a much younger competitor at the center, he laughingly joked,

“These are the young guys up here. I’m moving down to the other end of the room to play in my age group.”

I said, “But you won.” He replied, “Yeah, I’m usually good for one win with the young guys.”

Ray said the reason why he loves Table Tennis is because age doesn’t matter.   You can be eight 8 or 80, and still play. And Ray was right. On the other end of the room playing doubles was gentleman Nick (pictured in the blue shirt below), who is 81 years old.

“There are sports where participants excel at a young age, such as gymnastics and swimming. And there are sports where participants can still compete at the highest level when past peak physical age, such as golf, archery and lawn bowls. But there aren’t many sports (if any) where it’s possible for an 11-year-old to get to the final of world event one month and a 52-year-old to win a tour title the next month,” said Tom Lodziak, a table tennis coach, player and blogger based in Cambridge, England.

“So table tennis truly is an intergenerational sport. You can start at any age, either playing for fun or playing competitively. And the best bit? It’s a sport you can play all your life.”

So…I asked Ray (pictured in the red shirt, below left) that one question that many of us non-table tennis players have always wondered about.

“What is the difference between Table Tennis and Ping Pong.”table-tennis-1

Ray said nothing really other than the name.  So, I checked in with the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) for clarification. As I read through their history, what I learned is that the first use of the name “Table Tennis” appeared on a board and dice game made by J.H.Singer in New York in 1887, showing that the phrase “table tennis” had been around at least since then.

When the game started in the 1890s, various patented or trademarked names were being used by different manufacturers. So when the English sports company John Jaques & Son became the market leader in the 1920s with their version of the game called “Ping Pong”, they decided that they would only allow their trademarked name to be used. On the 12th December 1901, “The Table Tennis Association” was formed in England, and four days later, “The Ping-Pong Association” was also formed. These two associations would later merge in 1903 to become “The United Table Tennis and Ping-Pong Association”, and then would eventually change back to “The Table Tennis Association” before dying out in 1904.

On the other side of the ocean, the American rights were sold to Parker Brothers. As more and more ping pong tournaments were now being organized, The Parker Brothers also threatened legal action against anybody who used their proprietary trademarked name of Ping Pong without specifying the use of their equipment. Therefore an alternative name was required for this sport and the name Table Tennis was chosen. So, since that time, and particularly since the establishment of the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) in 1926, the modern game has been known as table tennis.

If you’re interested in learning more about Table Tennis, stop by the Beechmont Community Center located at 205 Wellington Avenue off of South 3rd Street.   Table Tennis is offer on Tuesdays (4 – 8:30pm), Wednesdays (11 am – 2 pm), Thursdays (4 – 8:30 pm) and Saturdays (10 am – 2 pm).

“To see people from all walks of life and backgrounds coming together with a mutual interest and different skill levels to play a friendly, but completive game is truly what makes a community a community.  Louisville needs more programs like this,” said Kinney.

Mercy Academy senior’s compassion leads to restoration of cemetery

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River Valley Cemetery, one of five Metro Parks and Recreation-maintained cemeteries in the city of Louisville.

By Aaron Henry 
Digital Content Specialist
Contact Aaron

We often look at a cemetery and think of loved ones that have passed on from this life. Unfortunately, some individuals do not have a family to remember them when they pass. River Valley Cemetery is one of Louisville’s final resting places for the homeless, often referred to as an Indigent Cemetery. It is one of 5 different cemeteries managed by the Metro Parks and Recreation department.

Each person in River Valley Cemetery is given a proper burial and a marker with their names and life span. Unfortunately, over the years many of these markers have been lost due to natural erosion and weathering. This has resulted in a number of grave sites with missing identification. Although heartbreaking, one local Girl Scout felt compelled to search for those whose identity had been lost to the elements.

Rebecca Dever, a senior at Mercy Academy made it her mission to help restore River Valley. She was first introduced to the site over Labor Day weekend while praying over those residing at River Valley. This was during a Cardboard Village project with her youth group at St. Gabriel The Archangel Catholic Church. The project is designed to raise awareness about the homeless the struggles they face day to day.

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Metro Parks and Recreation Volunteer Coordinator Laura Ryan (left) helps Dever restore a gravestone at River Valley Cemetery.

Over the last year, Rebecca has worked diligently towards the identification and rehabilitation of unmarked grave sites at River Valley. As a member of the Girl Scouts of Kentuckiana for 14 years, Rebecca is completing this massive undertaking for her “Gold Award” project. It is the highest achievement in the organization, and the equivalent to the Eagle Scout award in the Boy Scouts. Rebecca began this initiative one year ago and continues diligently working.

Rebecca has worked alongside Metro Parks Volunteer Coordinator and AmeriCorps Administrator Laura Ryan, and various Coroners offices throughout the city to identify each person buried at River Valley. Rebecca has even collaborated with Kroger, by collecting 400 pounds of plastic in order to produce a bench to be installed at the cemetery. She has also discussed plans of headstones for each grave with Kirk Dolan, who oversees the cemeteries maintenance.

She has found most of her information from the Joseph of Arimathea Society. An organization connected to the catholic high schools that participate in the burials of the deceased homeless.  She continued her search by contacting numerous homeless shelters around town, such as St. Johns Center and St. Vincent de Paul. She often referred to the National Coalition of the Homeless to provide answers to possible gaps in names.

Rebecca’s research was also aided by a directory located at River Valley. She coincidently discovered that the directory was created by her substitute teacher’s son. The Directory was his initiative in order to earn his Eagle Scout award.

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Next Year is the 100th anniversary of Girl Scouts of Kentuckiana. To celebrate, Rebecca plans to dedicate 100,000 service hours with the help of her troop for the President’s Volunteer Service Award.

Rebecca wishes to make River Valley not a resting place where individuals are forgotten, but rather a memorial to the less fortunate. Rebecca Dever has shown an insurmountable level of compassion and determination to hold onto the memory of those who have gone before us.

Louisville Parks & Recreation Wishes Birthday Wishes to Mickey!

By Walter Munday
Metro Parks and Recreation Outreach Manager
e-mail Walter

One of the overwhelming themes at this year’s National Park & Recreation Conference in St. Louis, MO, was a reminder that Park & Recreation professionals are the “FUN PEOPLE” of communities and municipal governments.

Parks and Playgrounds are birthplaces of fun and adventure for the majority of children in this country. In grade school it’s the playground which puts the “play” in “time”. It’s the fields and courts at neighborhood parks which offer venues of “FUN” for those who enjoy athletics or maybe even a game of hide & seek or nature excursions. It’s the community centers which offer indoor facilities for year-round “FUN” for both kids & adults involved in arts & crafts, athletics, performance arts, or social activities.

So… it’s only fitting that we, Louisville Metro Parks & Recreation, offer birthday wishes to the epitome of “FUN” on this November 18, 2016. Happy 88th Birthday Mickey Mouse from your friends at Louisville Metro Parks & Recreation!

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Louisville’s connections to the World Series

By Walter Munday
Metro Parks and Recreation Outreach Manager
e-mail Walter

On the morning of the opening of the 2016 Major League Baseball World Series, many native and replanted Louisvillians are unaware of the significance our city has played in America’s game of baseball. The Encyclopedia of Louisville indicates that in December of 1875, Louisville was the site of the initial organizational meetings for the creation of the National League, the first stable major league backed by businessmen.

From the Encyclopedia of Louisville:
“While local legend holds that the meetings were held in the back room of baseball enthusiast Larry Gatto’s saloon on Green Street (now Liberty Street), newspaper accounts indicate that the meetings took place at the Louisville Hotel on Main Street. League members were the Chicago White Stockings, the Hartford Dark Blues, the Boston Red Stockings, the St. Louis Browns, the Mutuals (of New York), the Athletics (Philadelphia), the Cincinnati Reds, and the Louisville Grays.

The National League opened its season in Louisville on April 25, 1876, as 6,000 people paid 10 cents to see the Louisville Grays lose to the Chicago White Stockings 4-0 at a facility on the site of present St. James and Belgravia Courts. The Grays, whose president was Courier-Journal founder and publisher Walter Haldeman, finished next to last in 1876. During the following year, several Grays players were accused and later banned from baseball for gambling. This scandal caused Louisville to lose its National League entry in 1878.”

A semi-pro team was playing baseball in Louisville around the same time. Their name was the Louisville Eclipse. In 1882, the Louisville Eclipse club joined teams from Cincinnati, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, and Baltimore to form the American Association, a league that would rival the National League.

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Baseball spectators at Eclipse Park, 1910, (Courtesy University of Louisville Archives)

One of the first standout players for the Louisville Eclipse was a man named Pete “The Old Gladiator” Browning. Browning was a dominate player in the American Association taking the batting titles in 1882 and 1885. He finished with a lifetime batting average of .341.

But what Browning is more famous for is an item he debuted in 1884. Legend has it that a 17-year-old John A. “Bud” Hillerich, a lover of baseball and a player himself, slipped away from work at his father’s woodworking shop one afternoon in 1884 to watch the Louisville Eclipse. Bud was in the stands as the team’s star, Pete Browning, mired in a hitting slump and broke his bat.

Sensing an opportunity, Bud invited Browning over to his father’s shop where he offered to make him a new bat. With Browning at his side giving advice, Bud hand-crafted a new bat from a long slab of wood. Browning debuted the bat the very next day and got three hits.

Browning told his teammates about his new bat, which sent a surge of professional ball players to the Hillerich shop. Yet Bud’s father had little interest in making bats; he saw the company future in stair railings, porch columns and swinging butter churns. For a brief time in the 1880s, he even turned away ball players.

But Bud persisted; he saw the future in bats. His father, pleased with his son’s enthusiasm, eventually relented. The rest is baseball history.

In 1894, Bud Hillerich took the business over from his father, and the name “Louisville Slugger” was registered with the U.S. Patent Office. In the early 1900s, the growing company pioneered a sports marketing concept by paying Hall of Fame hitter Honus Wagner to use his name on a bat—a practice continued today with Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods and many other professional athletes across virtually all sports. By 1923, Louisville Slugger was selling more bats than any other bat maker in the country. Legends like Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb and Lou Gehrig all swung Louisville Sluggers—the #1 bat of the most popular sport in America.

Oh… back to the Louisville Eclipse… they won the American League pennant in 1890, and played the National League’s Brooklyn Bridegrooms in a World Championship series that was never completed. It was supposed to have been a nine-game series, but cold weather along with rain/snow postponed the series with each team having three victories. So… the Brooklyn Bridegrooms and the Louisville Eclipse were 1890s Co-Champions.

The World Series, the modern championship series of Major League Baseball which is being played tonight, began in 1903, and was established as an annual event in 1905. Before the formation of the American Association (AA), there were no playoff rounds—all championships went to the team with the best record at the end of the season.

Also… for clarity as to where Eclipse Park was located, here you go. Eclipse Park was the name of three successive baseball grounds in Louisville, Kentucky in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. They were the home of the Louisville baseball team first known as the Louisville Eclipse and later as the Louisville Colonels. Semi-pro baseball had been played at the first Eclipse Park as early as 1874. The Louisville Eclipse played there from 1882 to 1884. The team was then renamed the Louisville Colonels and continued to play under that name from 1885 to 1893. The team was a member of the American Association until 1891 when it joined the National League when the American Association folded. The original park was located at 28th and Elliott streets in west Louisville. The second Eclipse Park was built across the street from the original at 28th and Broadway.

The Louisville Colonels played there from 1893 to 1899. This is the ground at which Hall of Famer Honus Wagner made his Major League debut on July 19, 1897. Today, the site is now called Elliott Square Park, an approximately four-acre public park just north of Broadway on 28th Street. Of course it’s important to note that Boone Square Park has the distinction of being the location of the first organized baseball game in Louisville back in 1865. And now you know…

https://www.slugger.com/en-us/our-history
https://books.google.com/books?isbn=0813149746

Project Update: Beargrass Creek Trail Shared Use Path

By Lisa Hite
e-mail Lisa

Metro Parks and Recreation and the Army Corps of Engineers recently hosted its second public meeting on the “Beargrass Creek Trail Conceptual Shared Use Path and Ecological Restoration Plan” that will link the Cherokee Park area with the Ohio River via a shared-use path. The plan has drawn a lot of attention from the cycling community and citizens throughout Louisville.

The latest meeting, at the Clifton Center, included a bit of background from the last meeting held in August including comments, suggestions, concerns we received then.

A detailed discussion of several alternatives throughout the stream corridor from Lexington/Grinstead to the confluence with the Ohio, including a little bit of the South Fork of the creek, also followed.

Some alternatives have some pretty big and cool ideas such as following the old route of the Big Four rail line as it came south of the river into the city and using a spiraling bridge structure similar to what Waterfront Park has at the Big Four Bridge. They are calling it “The Little Big Four Bridge. ” It would be the most costly, but is about the only way to have a route that follows the creek, stays off the street, and is able to navigate the big obstacles such as existing railroad, interstate highway and a bridge over the creek that has no possibility of a path going under it. It would be an amazing, iconic landmark if it were to go forward.

There are other more circuitous, partially on-street routes which are less costly as well.

There was a good Q & A after the presentation. Mostly the questions were about how would this be funded, possible timeline, “what does it take for the project to go forward”-kind of questions. There was interest in a nearby impound lot and doing something more productive and environmentally friendly with that. There was a lot of interest in the stream restoration ideas.

At the next meeting, possibly in early December, will present final recommendations about the routes and stream restoration after comments from this meeting have been considered.

If you’d like to check out the presentation from the Oct. 17 meeting, please click here.
Warning, it’s a sizable file, but it’s worth opening and checking out!