State of the… parks

Mayor Abramson would like to see major parts of the Louisville Loop project completed by 2015. If you were asked to create a wish list for park improvement projects, what would it include?

by Jason Cissell
Public Information Officer
e-mail Jason

Last week, Mayor Jerry Abramson presented his 21st and final State of the City address, offering a compelling vision of what Louisville will look like in 2015. He described:

  • new parks being developed through the City of Parks initiative, including 4,000 acres of park land along Floyds Fork, and 1,000 acres at the Jefferson Memorial Forest
  • further progress on construction of the paved Louisville Loop bike/walking path, including along the Olmsted Parkways
  • pedestrian access across the Ohio River via the old Big Four railroad bridge
  • development of new recreation opportunities at Louisville Champions Park and Riverview Park
  • implementation of a new aquatics plan, serving more neighborhoods beyond the traditional summer swim season, (we’ll do this with more spraygrounds, a second indoor natatorium and our summer pools)

To drill down a little further on that vision, we would add some more stuff from our own wish list:

  • at Jefferson Memorial Forest, miles of new trails for hiking, horseback riding and mountain biking, plus a new campground
  • continued construction of popular recreation amenities, like playgrounds and walking paths
  • improved arts and nature education programming
  • restored access to Otter Creek Park through a new operator
  • a greatly improved clubhouse facility for Charlie Vettiner golf course
  • a new, state of the art recreation center, replacing or supplementing outdated facilities in the west end
  • increased citizen involvement through volunteerism and stewardship

Those are some of the park improvements we’re dreaming about. Some of those the city can make happen, while others will require private funding or innovative partnerships. Schedules will be determined, in part, by the pace of economic recovery.

Your turn! What parks and recreation services would you like to see by 2015? We’ll share your responses with our planners.


18 thoughts on “State of the… parks

  1. Chandler January 20, 2010 / 9:05 pm

    While the new playground equipment at Breslin Park is great, I would like to see the walking trail and re-grade with amphitheater stage completed, as per the Breslin Park Master Plan

    • Jason Cissell January 21, 2010 / 11:26 am

      Chandler, we agree! I’ve been very excited to see that playground being built, because I think it will bring enough users to the park to create interest in further implementation of Breslin Park’s master plan. When fully built-out, Breslin has the potential to be an outstanding neighborhood park! I’ll share your comments with our management team.

  2. Troy January 21, 2010 / 9:49 am

    I would like to see a giant piece of artwork that stirs up a lot of conversation. The Cloud Gate (aka “the bean”) in Chicago is a good example. While there is some fantastic artwork in Louisville parks, I have never heard anyone say “Have you been to […] park to see that […] sculpture?” Here in The Ville, when mentioning a recent trip to Chicago, I’ve had a few people ask if I saw “the bean.” I’d like a piece of artwork here to stir up such excitement.

    • Jason Cissell January 21, 2010 / 11:24 am

      Troy, we’ll pass that comment about art along to our planners and to the Mayor’s committee on public art. In our planning for the Louisville Loop path, we’re having a lot of good discussions about including public art along the trail!

  3. StuNoland January 21, 2010 / 10:40 am

    The downtown portion of Waterfront Park is ruined by a large ugly and loud elevated interstate. This is a horrible first impression for the city. If I wasn’t from here it would immediately eliminate Louisville as a potential city to relocate to.

    Also, for a city the size of Louisville our dog park facilties are pathetic, both in capacity and quality. This assessment includes the unopened river road complex. Unfortunately Louisville only sees 50 cents of every dollar sent to Frankfort returned so I don’t really blame local government for this problem.

  4. louparks January 21, 2010 / 3:45 pm

    We also received this comment via Twitter.

    @loumetroparks More braille for park events and in the parks. Audible signals to assist the blind to get to the parks.

  5. louparks January 21, 2010 / 3:47 pm

    And this one via Facebook …

    Maintain what we have….maybe a little better! Plus, reopen Otter Creek Park….well you asked for a “wish list”.

  6. Joe January 21, 2010 / 8:36 pm

    Agreed that maintenance of what we have should be given much higher priority, and the opening of new park areas should be given a much lower priority. Louisville has LOTS of land devoted to park space. Which, don’t get me wrong, is GREAT–one of the things I love about the city. But to keep spending money on new park space while neglecting the park spaces we currently have is crazy. Almost every park in the city (not sure this is actually true, but almost ever park I’ve been too) could use more, better, newer playground equipment, for example. And I agree with the comment above about more and better dog park facilities. And generally the budgets for landscaping, lawn care, etc. at most parks could use significant improvements–having a giant open field does no one any good if it’s overgrown. And the restrooms? I wouldn’t use the restroom in Tyler Park if I was dying of dysentery. How often are these places cleaned? For a city that seems so proud of its parks (deservedly!), the maintenance of Louisville’s parks is very poor. Most other cities I’ve been to don’t have as many parks as Louisville, but the parks they do have are are clean, and the facilities are well-maintained and updated–so even though there are fewer parks, they are overall much more enjoyable. Louisville perhaps struggles to keep up because it is stretching its park maintenance budget over a greater number of total acres of park space than many other cities, and I worry that this problem will only grow worse as more park space is added.

    • Jason Cissell January 22, 2010 / 1:01 pm

      Joe, thanks for the comment — we really struggle with this question. We know that our existing parks have many needs (including new playgrounds, which unfortunately cost up to $100k a pop), but we also know that many parts of town don’t have the level of park service that folks inside the Watterson enjoy. If we don’t buy that land now, it won’t be available later. Plus, much (although not all) of our land acquisition funds come from outside sources — money that’s given to us solely for new land. We’ve put much of the new property aside for later use, so it’s not having much impact on the maintenance budget now.

      We’re working on dog parks — the city has three, with two more opening this year!

  7. Shelley January 22, 2010 / 9:21 am

    More signage would be nice, especially in the larger parks like Iroquois where not everything is visible from one location.
    Trail maps, with milage information, bathroom and water fountain locations, parking lots and such should be posted at each major enterance to a park (for both pedestrians and vehicles).

    Better marking of trails, and if a trail is under restoration, actually blocking it off with fencing or distinct barriers rather than a small sign “discouraging” people from walking on it.

    Clean restrooms and more available water fountains.

    Park rangers of some sort to enforce basic rules like keeping dogs on a leash and no parking areas. Could be a job combined with simple maintenence and trash pick-up.

    • Jason Cissell January 22, 2010 / 1:06 pm

      Shelley, thanks. We’ve worked to get some better maps online, but the same can’t always be said for directional signs and maps in parks. One exception is Creason Park, where there are signs posted with various walking routes and distances. Thurman Hutchins Park also has some good directional signage, and our plans for the Louisville Loop include an impressive wayfinding system.

      But this is an area where we could do better. I’ll share your thoughts with our planners and our operations staff!

  8. Vickie January 22, 2010 / 1:27 pm

    I think we should still be using Otter Creek Park and maintaining it instead of throwing money out there on new property, new parks and equipment at parks within the city that will only be destroyed or marred by graffiti and such. Otter Creek Park had everything that any of the other parks have and more. It was a beautiful place and still could be. It is truly a shame to have something some beautiful and something that so many people love to use and let one person make the decision to close it down and ruin the dreams and good times of so many people.

  9. helen January 22, 2010 / 1:51 pm

    I agree, the first priorities are buying land for the new park, and maintaining the original Olmstead parks.

    It takes time to carefully consider plans for a Great Park that could surpass all others in the world … to study the very best of all other parks … what makes those parks great … to use this knowledge to create something even better. Plans I have seen were drawn up quickly and have yet to evolve into something with “soul,” something infused with Nature.

    Central Park in NYC is both similar to and surpasses the Olmstead parks in Louisville. All paths are curved. Undulations and curves in the terrain visually separate one section of park from another.

    There are no automobile roads to detract or reduce the amount of land within the park. Roads that cross the park go under the park, beneath massive stone arches. All other roads are outside the park.

    Plantings of trees and shrubs are everywhere, giving the illusion of solitude in a woods, despite so many people nearby. Natural materials, such as boulders, and stone bridges, reinforce the feeling of the grandeur of nature … nature we are so removed from and starved for in the city.

    This is what the purpose of a great park is … to give a feeling of awe, a return to nature, a place of comfort, spiritually distant from stresses of city life.

    • louparks January 22, 2010 / 3:21 pm


      Your final comment sounds like something that would have come out of the mouth of Frederick Law Olmsted himself. Well said!

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