Project Update: Beargrass Creek Trail Shared Use Path

By Lisa Hite
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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!

Harold and Louise Senior – thanks for your support!


By Walter Munday
Metro Parks and Recreation Outreach Manager
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Parks were created to be enjoyed by people and preserved for future generations. Parks are great for the environment. They protect and conserve biodiversity by keeping our air and water clean. Just think of all the beautiful plants and animals you see when strolling around your neighborhood/community park.

To address rising obesity and health challenges in cities across the nation, city officials and healthcare providers are looking to Park and Recreation agencies to increase its marketing appeal to attract even more people to our parks.  But, there is a bit of a paradox … as we market and promote our parks and outdoor recreational amenities as popular destination spots, we must be prepared for the consequences of the increased human footprint.  More people in parks means… more trash. But it doesn’t have to be.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the average American tosses 4.4 pounds of trash every single day. It may not seem all that astonishing on the surface, but with 323.7 million people living in the United States, that’s roughly 728,000 tons of daily garbage – enough to fill 63,000 garbage trucks.

The EPA reports that Kentucky produces 28.7 tons of trash annually. That ranks Kentucky 8th on the list of US states with the highest tonnage of waste per person. These statistics don’t fully account for the amount of trash discarded along our roads, parks and across the nation’s waterways that never gets picked-up.   Litter poses some major problems for our natural habitat.

To address this need, Louisville Metro Parks and Recreation employees work hard to keep our parks clean and beautiful. It’s impossible for our employees to retrieve all trash in our parks within our regularly scheduled park maintenance schedule.  Even while on the clock, it’s still impossible for our employees to keep 13,000 acres trash-free on a regular basis. Volunteers are one of our greatest assets!   They come individually and in groups. Some are local while others are visiting from out of town, both with the simple goal of positively improving the aesthetics and health of our city’s greenspace.

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. and Ms. Senior; a beautiful South Louisville couple strolling around Iroquois Park.  They’re routine walkers and ballroom dancers.   What caught my attention was the little bag Mr. Senior was carrying.  Mr. Senior said that he and his wife love Iroquois Park, and they wanted to do their part to keep their park beautiful. What a wonderful testimony!  The Seniors are a pleasant example of the thousands of volunteers who not only love their parks, but partner with us to help maintain them.

Yes… trash is a problem, and our staff is working hard to ensure trash is collected and disposed of.  But… this is an ongoing problem in which park staff can’t fix alone.  We need Louisvillians to love our parks, and to help us keep them clean. All so often, we find trash skewed around the base of an empty trash can by someone who missed a jump shot.  Or, overfilled trash cans routinely victimized illegal dumpers.   We need your help.   If a couple in their 90s can walk and pick-up trash along their route in Iroquois Park, surely any of us can do the same in our favorite parks!

Volunteer in your Metro Parks!

Robbie Valentine – a summertime fixture at Louisville Metro Parks and Recreation


By Walter Munday
Metro Parks and Recreation Outreach Manager
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Over the summer break, thousands of kids throughout the city will participate hundreds of camps including a wide variety of sports camps aimed at keeping kids more physically active and learning new sports skills.  From soccer to baseball, from lacrosse to volleyball and Golf, thousands of kids will enjoy the fun and the instructional benefits.

Louisville Metro Parks & Recreation has joined countless other organizations including JCPS, the Louisville Free Public Library, Metro United Way and others of going a step further by developing an coordinated Out of School Time (OST) schedule that not only includes the summer break, but also winter/holiday and spring break OST activities and programs.

According to BLOCS, a system created locally from a partnership with education, government and community impact organizations,

“The correlation between out-of-school time and youth success is undeniable. Studies show that youth who attend out-of-school time programs are 12% less likely to drop out of school compared to their peers who don’t participate. And quality out-of-school time programs are universally recognized as critical tool to help students graduate on time – contributing positively to key performance indicators such as attendance, engagement in learning, test scores and grades. With an estimated 1,200 students in Louisville alone predicted to drop out of school this year, and 44% of children in Kentucky indicating they would attend an out-of-school time program if one were available, the need and value is obvious.

BLOCS’ goals are to set quality standards or out-of –school time programs, inciting participation by out-of-school time program providers, and motivating out-of-school time program providers strive.

One of the partnerships that Louisville Metro Parks & Recreation established is with Robbie Valentine’s Basketball Camps.

The Robbie Valentine Basketball Summer Camp is a youth summer camp for boys and girls, ages 6-16 that emphasizes individual instruction in all phases of the game. Campers can expect to learn the key fundamentals of being a better basketball player in areas including defense, shooting, passing, ball handling, team work, and leadership.

Valentine brings in current and former players & coaches such as Denny Crum, Rick Pitino, Milt Wagner, Tony Branch, Jack Givens, and others.  RV2

Valentine, a former U of L basketball player and a successful product of a single parent household in Hardin County, has been hosting basketball camps for more than 30 years.  He began working with Louisville Metro Parks & Recreation in an attempt to reach inner city youth who may not have a father at home.

“The mentors I had growing up changed my life.  They taught me I could achieve.   I’m inspired to give back to others as others gave back to me”, said Valentine.

The camps promote the importance of education and its connection to athletic success. Valentine goes further by implementing some key rules at all of his camps

“He always starts out (by saying), ‘Tuck in your shirts, tie your shoes, pull up your shorts because the image you present is how people are going to perceive you,” Ben Johnson said.  Johnson an Assistant Director overseeing Louisville Metro Parks’ Recreation Division.

Valentine tells campers at the onset that his camps are just as much about developing successful young men and women in the classroom as they are about improving their skills on the court.  He gives them the option of leaving the camp if they refuse to comply.

Since 2014, Louisville Metro Park & Recreation has had hundreds of kids from several of the community centers including Baxter, California, Parkhill, Portland, South Louisville and others attend the camps.

“Our ultimate goal is to keep kids involved in a positive, safe and nurturing environment,” said Johnson.

Parks Employee Defines Family

All too often, the boundaries between work and home often overlap due to increased demands at work. Many often reference their coworkers as their second family. But to one veteran Metro Parks & Recreation employee, he chooses to refer to his colleagues as his primary family, and he is quick to explain why.

Meet Nate Cole, Park Worker II, Vettiner Maintenance District. Nate joined Louisville Metro Parks & Recreation in April of 2002 as a seasonal. Later that year he accepted a full-time position. He’s worked in the Forestry and three different Maintenance divisions (Highview, Sawyer & Vettiner).

“Nate wears many hats. He’s a jack of all trades that has been beneficial to the department and metro neighborhoods…no matter the zip code. His work skills transition to his home and neighborhoods,” said Jacky Gardner-Sparrow, Park Administrator.

In addition to his Park Worker II duties, Nate was the Union Representative from 2011-2014, and served on the Executive Board. After a couple years off, Nate has resumed his union rep duties.

Nate grew up off Grade Lane, but quickly adopted the George Rogers Clark neighborhood as his “hood”. From as far back as age 12, Nate‘s father would transport the family from their south end home to the park every weekend to play in the park.

“It seems like we’d be at the park all day playing basketball, splashing around in the old pool, and just hanging out,” Nate said while reminiscing about his teen years.

Ironically, Nate now lives with his father directly across the street from that very same park – George Rogers Clark Park on Thurston Avenue. Jacky pointed out that Nate often says, “I want the parks to look good because I live there.”

When asked what he loved about working for parks & recreation, Nate answered without hesitation “family” with his coworkers. Nate openly acknowledged that he wouldn’t be alive without the help and continuing support from his coworkers.

Several years back, Nate openly admits battling alcoholism. Like most who deal with this illness, it’s nearly impossible to overcome it alone. Nate, who’s been sober since 2007, acknowledge the support from his supervisors (Jacky & Ken Parker), and his coworkers. He said if it hadn’t been for the support from his work family, he wouldn’t have survived the ordeal. Nate talked about several of the guys who helped him, but one person who he acknowledged for their on-going support was Lionel Hamilton.


“We call him Uncle Lionel because he’s always willing to pull the guys aside; especially the young guys and offer advice. Even off the clock, he’d stop by the house just to see how I was doing. That’s family,” Cole said.

Jacky said that the district crew is like family; the same life and work ethic flows throughout. They eat, work, party and support each other through the good and bad times.

New Neighbors At Cherokee Park

By Aaron Henry
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It looks like Cherokee Park has had a number of new visitors lately. According to recent research, a variety of salamanders have started gathering near the spring by Big Rock. Thanks to the dedicated research of Dr. Joseph Bradley from the University of Louisville, who has been studying the behaviors of different species of salamanders.

Along the creek there is a long limestone wall, in which a spring is running out of a small cavity in the rock down to the creek. This spring provides suitable wet habitat for certain species of salamanders. There are many crevices and rocky areas used as refuge to take cover for these critters. This area also provides plenty of food for them as well. There are a number of insects and worms attracted to the area they can chow down on near the spring.

Dusky salamander

(Dusky salamander)

There are four distinct species that have been identified and monitored: Dusky salamanders (Desmognathus fuscus), Cave salamanders (Eurycea lucifuga)Zigzag salamanders (Plethodon dorsalis), and Midland mud salamanders (Pseudotriton montanus). These were all found in or directly around that spring issuing from the limestone wall. On the most active nights, Dr. Bradley found 80-100+ individuals of which the majority were dusky salamanders.

Behavior wise, dusky salamanders are very aggressive, whereas cave salamanders are somewhat passive. Dusky salamanders have also been directly tied to the spring, whereas other species could often be found near the spring, or around the vegetation and the limestone wall. It’s surprising to see so many salamanders due to how frequently people visit the park.

(Cave Salamander)

Cave salamander

Cave salamanders are very good climbers, and thus do well around limestone formations where they can climb into cracks in the wall. However, Zigzag and mud salamanders were only active for a short period of time while researching. All these species are nocturnally active, hiding under cover, in burrows, or in crevices during the day.

Dusky salamanders and zigzag salamanders blend in very well with their environment. They are both some mixture of tan, brown, and gray. Cave and mud salamanders are quite the opposite, both being bright orange to red with black spots; this is “aposematic coloration,” meaning they advertise their bad taste to potential predators.

ZigZag salamander                                                          (Zigzag Salamander)

What all of these species share in common is they are plethodontid salamanders. A major unifying and interesting characteristic of this type of salamander is that they are lungless; gas exchange predominantly occurs across the skin, even though they are terrestrially active.

midland mud salamander

(Midland Mud Salamander)

Evidence has shown with the removal of Bush Honeysuckle, amphibian species numbers should increase over time. This could be due to the fact that honeysuckle is poisonous to a number of animals. There is still so much to learn about our new guests, but in the meantime we are happy to have our new aquatic friends, and they can stay as long as they want.

What’s In A Name

By Aaron Henry
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Have you ever wondered while visiting one of your local park, “Where did this park get its name?” A special part of our parks is many  of them have been named after prominent members within their community. These are just a few parks that honor the memory of individuals committed to making our city great.

David and Betty Jones

(David and Betty Jones)

Thurman Hutchins Park

In 2004 the 80-acre park was established along River Road by the founder of Humana Inc.; David Jones.

Jones stated, “we feel that this park, with all that it offers the community – and all the children and families and sports teams that will enjoy it – is the best possible use for this land.”

The park’s name is actually in honor of the mothers of both David Jones and Betty Jones; Elsie Thurman Jones and Lillias Hutchins Ashbury.

“Its central location, easy accessibility and wide range of uses makes Thurman Hutchins Park a treasure for us all. David Jones and his family provided Jefferson County a remarkable and lasting gift that will be enjoyed for generations,” stated by the Judge/Executive Jackson.

“We are truly indebted to the Jones family for such a wonderful contribution to this community’s parks,” said Brigid Sullivan, the Metro Parks director at the time. “Without the commitment of the Joneses, we could not have landscaped and equipped the park to the extent that we have.”

A.B. Sawyer

(Albert B. Sawyer Jr.)

A. B. Sawyer Park

Albert B. Sawyer Jr. was was dedicated in helping underprivileged children at the former Ormsby Village children’s home off of Whipps Mill Road.

After his retirement, he continued his work in supporting the youth in Louisville. In 1942 he was responsible for establishing the first Boys Club within the Portland neighborhood.

Sawyer continued his efforts after retirement by working behind the scenes with Jefferson County Public Schools to establish an award-winning  program to combat drug abuse.

He was also a former director of the American Red Cross, the Salvation Army, The Boys’ and Girls’ Clubs of America, Kentucky Farm Bureau, Purebred Livestock Association, and the Kentucky Board of Trade.

In 1985, Sawyer celebrated his 97th Birthday with 350 of his “foster children” gathered from across the country to celebrate and honor the 40 years of service he provided to so many children at Ormsby Village.

The number of baseball fields and playground area at A. B. Sawyer Park shows the enduring ideals of caring for children in a safe environment, that Sawyer believed in.

Ginny Reichard Park

On the corner of Wenzel and Franklin streets, a small park went unnamed for a numbers of years.  It wasn’t until 1981 that it was named after Virginia Anne “Ginny” Reichard, who was a neighborhood activist in Butchertown.

She originally grew up in Oldham and Eastern Jefferson County but moved to Butchertown in the late 1960s. Around the same time, she began working for the hearing and speech center at Kentucky Easter Seal Society.

Barbara Banaszynski, a fellow activist described Reichard’s character.

“It seemed like she was always concerned with others. Always working for others.”

Reichard was also involved with a number of neighborhood projects such as Oktoberfest. She even helped purchase the Butchertown house that Thomas Edison once lived in.

“It seemed to me that whenever something needed to be done in Butchertown, Ginny was always on the spot,” Sam Dorsey, the neighborhood Representative at the city’s Neighborhood Development Office explained.

These parks serve as a commemoration to the devoted efforts of these individuals, and will be remembered for years to come. David Jones once said, “Parks can last forever, and this is something we wanted to do for the enjoyment of everyone in Louisville and Jefferson County.”

Growing Community in Our Parks

By Aaron Henry
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Louisville has provided such a great opportunity with so many parks to choose from to enjoy. However, with so many different parks, the need for assistance is vital in order to maintain these areas. The volunteer program is a key component to upholding these parks across the city.   

Laura Ryan is the Volunteer Coordinator for the Metro Parks and Recreation department who is dedicated to supporting the Louisville community through the volunteer program. She is responsible for establishing an organized system for people interested in assisting the park development. Effective communication is a key component of her job to insure volunteers understand the needs of maintaining park facilities.

Last year there were over 8,000 volunteers and $1.5 million worth of work put into the parks program by Louisville’s generous citizens. This is a tremendous effort that helps to propel our city forward.

Seventy percent of the volunteers are made up of larger groups that assist with major maintenance issues such as playground repair, repainting benches, golf course maintenance and planting trees. These projects can also be included in the Adopt-A-Park program that allows organizations to coordinate various services projects for a specific park.

A number of the organizations have created their own programs in order to donate their time and effort to help with the Parks. Some of these include Metro United Way,  Humana and Wilderness Louisville. Most Parochial schools also have a required amount of service hours that can be used to aid the Metro Parks and Recreation department.

One of the most popular events is the Jack-O-Lantern Spectacular at Iroquois Park in October. There is a need for 40 volunteers every night through the entire month! This takes a great deal of planning and dedication to create a fun experience for everyone. The event serves as a fundraiser for the non-profit Louisville Metro Parks Foundation, which seeks to make improvements to parks and playgrounds across the city.

There are several opportunities for individuals as well to help out. Louisville Metro Parks and Recreation also provides 15 different Community Centers around the city. These provide the ability to take part in a number of activities just like the parks.

There are several programs including sports teams and tutoring within a safe environment for both youth and families. In order to maintain these programs, there is a substantial need for volunteers as well.

The truth is we are all part of this city and we have the ability and privilege to give back while sharing these areas to benefit one another. Whether you volunteer to pick up trash at a park or coach for a basketball league at a community center. You have the chance to improve Louisville, while impacting other people’s lives.

If you would like to help with any of our parks or centers, please follow the link below to learn more about how to get involved.

You can also email Laura Ryan for more information.