Jefferson Memorial Forest’s Canoemobile Adventure Event

canoe2Last weekend, I had the pleasure of traveling down to the beautiful Riverview Park to capture some photos of Jefferson Memorial Forest’s Canoemobile Event, which offers free canoe rides for individuals and/or families. But before I could even get the camera out, I was once again enthralled by the beauty of this park. It’s a hidden oasis of 46+ acres running along the Ohio River in Southwest Jefferson County at the end of Greenwood Road. I must admit, Riverview Park is one of my favorite parks in the city. Why? This park is situated along the river bank, offering a quiet, picturesque view of the Ohio with a backdrop of lush landscape highlighted by crisp, green leaves with hints of blazing orange and red foliage amidst the rolling tree canopy.   It’s beautiful!

As I pulled out the camera, I rushed down to the water to capture a couple of families arriving back to the dock after their paddling experience; the grandparents and their grandchildren, along with a father of two boys, all smiling ear to ear! For the children, this was their first paddling experience. Moments later, another canoe arrived filled with young ladies participating in a YMCA mentoring program from Southern Indiana. While still a little nervous, two of the participants told me that they had a blast! All admitted this was their first time canoeing, but it wouldn’t be their last.

That’s exactly what organizers wanted to hear. The purpose of the Canoemobile program is to introduce youngsters and families to canoeing and other outdoor activities, all aimed at promoting environmental education and stewardship and physical activity in the outdoors. The program is also part of larger urban outdoor initiative with the United States National Park Service, which is focused on introducing urban residents to the beauty of the outdoors.   The canoe rides, in partnership with the Urban Wilderness Canoe Adventures (UWCA), launched from Shawnee Park on Friday, October 3, and Saturday, October 4 from Riverview Park. Despite the rainy and cold weather, more than 350 participants took part in the activity.

What I enjoyed most about this event was the family-fun atmosphere.   It was interesting to watch many of the participants quietly (often a little reluctantly) meander down to the canoe in the beginning, yet confidently exiting the boat laughing and reminiscing about their journey up/down river at the conclusion.   Sometimes it was the child/teen holding the hand of the parent/grandparent who was obviously the one nervous, and at other times it was vice versa. While I personally was unable to overcome my fear of water and participate, I was impressed by the number of people who were. Some even acknowledging they now could mark this off their “bucket list”.

Thanks to the welcoming and energetic staff of Jefferson Memorial Forest and Wilderness Canoe Adventures. They helped to make the event GREAT! See some of my pictures below…

 

 

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Exploring the World through Metro Parks & Recreation’s Summer Camps

By WALTER MUNDAY
Community Outreach Supervisor
E-mail Walter

A few weeks ago, I overheard a conversation between my brother-in-law and son regarding the importance of reading.   One of the things I heard him tell my son was “that reading allows anyone, regardless of cultural, economic, and/or social barriers, the opportunity to explore the world through their imagination.  It allows anyone to explore places that they’ll never visit, meet people that they’ll never see in person, and consume knowledge and understanding about cultures and history which they’ll otherwise never know.”

The same could beblog1 said about the summer camps that took place at our 12 community centers this summer.    The theme this year was “A Fantastic Voyage”, and each center had the flexibility in guiding its campers through local and/or world educational voyage.

For instance, Beechmont Community Center’s voyage traveled to South America where campers learned about the language, culture, history, political structure and more of countries like Argentina, Chile, Ecuador, and more.  At the conclusion of the camp, campers performed in “A Fantastic Voyage High School Musical,” a performance for friends which highlighted what they’d learned throughout their voyage.

On the other hand, Baxter Community Center’s Voyage was a little closer to home.   Their voyage traveled to islands of Hawaii, and provided campers intimate details about the culture, history and natural elements of the land.   Campers wrote essays about the different islands, learned about native dances as well as leaned about volcanos.  Campers also created maracas as part of their art classes.

Southwick Community Center’s Voyage took advantage of our local history and cultural amenities like for example a trip to the Kentucky Derby Museum.   This voyage, led by Ronnie Dreistadt, the Education Curator at the museum, took campers on a historical voyage back to Europe and West Africa focusing on the beginning of Thoroughbred Horse racing.   It focused on President’s Washington and Jackson’s role in horse racing as well as the contributions of African Americans to sport oblog2f horse racing.

These voyages, in addition to the other programs offered like fitness, arts, and environmental education, highlighted each of our summer campers’ experience.  It provided many of them, who unfortunately haven’t even traveled much further than their own neighborhoods, an opportunity to learn what exists outside of their immediate area; outside of our country.  It challenges their imagination, and encourages them to dream.

Some of the additional featured activities included: Belle of Louisville Cruise, Youth Health Initiative Program, Reds Rookie Success League, Bike Sense program, trips and so much more.

LMPF & the Dream Foundation team up with Phillis Wheatley Elementary

Phillis Wheatley Elementary Students
Students at Phillis Wheatley raised $300 for their “Change for a Change” campaign benefiting the West Louisville Playground Initiative.

The Louisville Metro Parks Foundation (LMPF) and the DREAM Foundation are teaming up with Phillis Wheatley Elementary School to renovate the California Park playground.  Wheatley has very little green space, and it utilizes the public park’s playground as the school play area.  The renovation of the playground is part of the West Louisville Playground Initiative which is a fundraising effort by LMPF.

Thanks to a partnership with the DREAM Foundation, the new playground will be designed as an “inclusive playground”, which allows children in wheelchairs an opportunity to play on the equipment.  Instead of the traditional mulch, the surfacing is made of rubber and the equipment is designed with larger openings for wheelchair access.  If funding permits, another amenity may include a new sprayground.

The Phillis Wheatley Elementary community participated directly in the effort to renovate California Park by asking folks to donate “change for a change”.  Students were given Ziploc bags to take home with a letter encouraging parents to ask family, friends and neighbors to donate their change to go toward the California Park renovations.  Through their efforts they were able to collect just over $300 just by asking for pennies, nickels and dimes. Phillis Wheatley Elementary Students

It goes without saying that playgrounds are important.  For some kids, the playground offers their only opportunity for exercise throughout the day.  In an article written by author Nikke Maidment, she clearly identifies the importance of playgrounds.  Maidment  said, “From the earliest age, it is essential for children to engage in child play and interact with others.  Psychologists have found it to be vital in child development as well as allowing them to interact and learn fundamental social skills.  Playgrounds provide a venue for children to explore their environment, test boundaries and develop an imagination.  It also provides them a chance to build self-esteem and confidence, which is key in order for them to reach their full potential later in life.”

How can you help?
Make a donation of any amount! Make checks payable to the “Louisville Metro Parks Foundation” and mail to:

Post Office Box 37280
Louisville, Kentucky 40233-7280

Wheelchair Basketball: The Game is the Same

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Each spring, millions of Americans across the country are inundated with media coverage and water-cooler conversations about their predictions for the crowning of the year’s NCAA Basketball Champion. Basketball enthusiasts, and even those who are oblivious to the game leading up to March, are consumed with filling out tournament brackets, entering office pools, and making travel arrangements to see their favorite team(s) play.

Last week, right here in the city, I had the opportunity to watch, for the first time, competitive basketball played by men and women both young and seasoned. It was a very thrilling experience! Oh… I almost forgot to mention, they were all playing in wheelchairs. Yes… it was the 64th Annual National Wheelchair Basketball Association Championships drawing 85 teams and more than 1,000 athletes from all across the country. I was on assignment from Louisville Metro Parks’ Community Relations Division to take photos, and while I did, the mental pictures I captured left me wheel3totally amazed, as did my 12 year-old daughter who traveled with me out to HOOPS to watch the Junior Division games.

“I can’t believe these guys and girls can do all of that while sitting down in wheel chairs. It’s amazing!” said Spencer, my daughter.

I started the day out in the South Wing of the Kentucky Expo Center taking photos at the ceremonial celebrity wheelchair basketball game in which several media personalities and members of the mayor’s executive staff took to the court to play in wheelchairs alongside some Olympic and veteran wheelchair basketball athletes. Following those festivities, I moved over to watch some of the Championship and Division III games. Wow! It was just like watching basketball at any given park, school gym or recreation center. Players were blocking out on the boards, shooting three-point shots, dribbling the basketball down court, and blocking shots. While most of the rules were the same, some of them were a little different. For example, players get two pushes for every dribble down court, the players’ wheelchairs are also considered an extension of each their bodies, so fouls can be called for wheelchair contact.

What made the ‘game even more the same’ were the strategies and emotional displays of competitiveness during the time-outs, the smack-talking during and following the games, the expressions of exhilaration following good plays and victory as well as expressions of exasperation following bad calls, and defeat.

Later in the afternoon / early evening, I ventured out to HOOPS to watch some of the Junior Prep Division and Junior 10’ Division games. While there seemed to be less “smack-talking”, the games remained very competitive. Both Spencer and I gasped rather loudly when one of the players’ chair tumbled over awkwardly on a fast-break down court. The young man was totally okay, and we later could see that the tumble wheelchair1was less dramatic to those in the crowd than it was for Spencer and I. It was basketball!

Overall, I was extremely impressed with the level of competition, and the athletic ability of so many who have not allowed their disabilities to hinder their athletic possibilities. I was reminded of a quote by famed Major League Baseball coach Tommy Lasorda who said, “The difference between the possible and the impossible lies in a person’s determination.” Congrats to all of the determined basketball players who came to Louisville this year to compete in the National Wheelchair Basketball Championships.

by Walter R. Munday, Outreach Manager
Louisville Metro Parks

Celebrating 75 Years With the Iroquois Amphitheater

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By Mike Slaton
Iroquois Amphitheater General Manager

We are excited to celebrate 75 years of magic at the Iroquois Amphitheater!

The popular Coors Light Iroquois Amphitheater Summer Concert Series returns this year, with even more excitement than before. The season kicks off with hometown favorites Houndmouth on April 26th.

We’re looking forward to great shows from Brandi Carlile, Gregg Allman, Local Natives, Michael Franti, and more!

Pirates

Our summer musical is Gilbert & Sullivan’s beloved “The Pirates of Penzance,” running August 8-17. This production features some of Louisville’s finest performers and promises to be a fun-filled time for the whole family!

The Iroquois Amphitheater Presents series returns featuring, FREE performances all summer long. Highlights include The Monarchs, The Louisville Winds, U of L Dance Theater, Appalatin, and The Louisville Vocal Project. All performances are free, but donations are welcome to help support programming.

Speaking of support, did you know that starting this year you can Sponsor A Seat? For just $100, you can inscribe your name, or the name of a loved one, on a seat of your choosing, It’s a great way to show your support of quality programming at your Iroquois Amphitheater!

We’re also excited that Garrison Keillor is bringing his Prairie Home Companion’s Radio Romance Tour to the amphitheater on July 20. Get your tickets early, this promises to be a night to remember, and is sure to sell out!

And of course, we’ll keep showing great films this summer, with Movies Under the Stars on the second weekend of May through September, and  in June and July.

We hope to see you a lot this summer! Walk, drive, bike, or take a bus. We’ve expanded our menu options and our picnic area, so grab a hot dog, popcorn, beer or soda when you get here, and sit back and enjoy our 75th year of making magic under the stars!

PS. You’re invited to the Iroquois Amphitheater 75th Anniversary Celebration on September 22. Stay tuned for details!

Beechmont Teen Makes the Cut

Alejandro Rivera joins Red Zone Racing Team

In less than two months, cyclocross competitors from around the world will pedal into Louisville, KY, for the 2013 UCI Cyclocross World Championships.  This is the first time the 50-year-old event has ever been staged outside of Europe. And…Louisville is ready!

Alejandro Rivera pulls ahead of other cyclists in a recent race.
Alejandro Rivera pulls ahead of other cyclists in a recent race.

So… what is “cyclocross”?    Cyclocross developed in the early 1900s, primarily in Europe, as a way for road racers to squeeze in off-season training, and events still traditionally take place in the fall and winter. Riders do laps, usually almost two miles long (3 kilometers), often through mud, sand, grass and even creeks. They dismount and carry bikes over manmade or natural barriers. Races typically last between 30 to 60 minutes.

According to USA Cycling, cyclocross is officially the nation’s fastest-growing two-wheeled discipline.  Over the last five years, participation jumped from 32,000 to 72,000, and many of the new riders are women and juniors.

And that’s where this story begins.  More than five years ago in 2007, several local bike enthusiasts got together to figure out a way to get kids on bikes and into bike racing.  A year later, more than 30 and sometimes almost 50 kids began converging on River Road Country Club on Friday evenings to learn the sport of cyclocross from local racers.    As a result, Red Zone Cycling was born.  Its results already include podium finishes at several Cyclocross National Championships by both male and female Red Zone cyclists.

Red Zone works one kid at a time.  Its results already include podium placings at the 2007 Cyclocross National Championships.  Just as important, perhaps more important, Red Zone’s results include lots of kids who have taken up cycling and gone from sedentary to active, and these kids are spreading the word to their friends.  As a result of their success, Red Zone has helped put Louisville on the national cyclocross map.  People have taken notice of both the team’s race results and its participation level.

John Haley is the head coach for the Red Zone Cycling team.  He has been involved in cycling for more than three decades. One of the reasons for his involvement in the program was the opportunity to introduce cycling to kids who otherwise may not have had the opportunity to learn the sport.

Last year, Red Zone Cycling partnered with Bike Louisville, Jefferson County Public Schools, Metro Parks, and the Louisville Bicycle Club to create a program called Bike Sense, which is aimed at teaching riding skills, bike maintenance and basic repair, and bike fitness and fun to kids in two elementary schools – initially at Rangeland and Wellington Elementary Schools.  John Rolf Eisinger, an Engineering Technician
for Louisville Metro Public Works with a focus on Bicycle Infrastructure, heads up the Bike Louisville Program.

Haley met up with Eisinger earlier this year to discuss how Bike Louisville might be involved in a program they created called Friday Night Middlecross.   Haley, who has known Eisinger for many years, has always wanted to help kids.  What evolved was likely more than what Haley had envisioned. Eisinger was able to bridge a gap by connecting Louisville Metro Parks and kids from several of their community centers with Red Zone Cycling’s Friday Middlecross program.  Red Zone kids got the opportunity help demonstrate/teach cyclocross.

“This learning experience not only benefited the kids from the community centers, but also our Red Zone Racing kids by giving them the opportunity to give back to our community.  In fact, “giving back” is the core value of our organization,” said Haley.

One of the participants of Red Zone Cycling’s Friday Middlecross program was 15-year-old Iroquois High School sophomore, Alejandro Rivera.  Rivera has been participating in programs at the Beechmont Community Center for nearly seven years.  In 2003, at the age of six, Rivera, and his mother Olga Rodriquez and his sister Marian, moved to Louisville from Camaguey, Cuba. Soon after arriving, Rivera started hanging out at the Beechmont Community Center, and participating in the programs.

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Alejandro Rivera is pictured above leaning against his bike with Charles “Chaz” Bullard at the Beechmont Community Center.

Charles Bullard, better known as “Chaz”, is a Recreation Assistant at the community center.  He fondly remembers meeting Rivera not long after he regularly began coming to the center.

“Alejandro is a great kid!  He stops by the center almost every day,” Bullard said.

During the summer, Bullard began recruiting kids to participate in the Middlecross program.  Rivera, who began riding BMX bikes at the Louisville Extreme Park, was one of the kids asked to participate.

“Chaz asked me to go, but I really wasn’t that interested.  I was more focused on baseball.”  Rivera said.

Bullard continued to encourage Rivera to participate.

“Chaz was like, man, just try it one time.  I believe you’ll really like it,” Rivera said.

He went on to say that Chaz was like a big-brother to him, and that he’d always listened to his advice in the past.

“This is the guy who first encouraged me to try baseball, which I did, and now I love it, and I’m pretty good at it.  Maybe I should at least give it a try,” Rivera said.

Haley remembers the first time he really noticed Rivera.  Haley and Mike Hewitt, owner, 2WheelSports, an Events Management company which also promotes cycling events in Louisville, Kentucky, and throughout the area were watching some of their junior level cyclocross riders leading the new participants in some cycling drills.  Haley recalled, “Both of us first looked at Rivera, and then we looked at each other and said,   WOW!  We have to get this kid in the program!”

Rivera was only a bikes-length behind one of Red Zone’s national level cyclocross riders during the drill.

A week or so later, Haley offered Rivera a spot on the team.

On Sunday October 14th, Rivera travel to Cincinnati with the Red Zone Racing team to compete in a cyclocross event.  With only a few weeks of practicing, Rivera finished 50th out of 75 in a race that also included adults.

“This is amazing,” said Marty Storch, Assistant Director, Louisville Metro Parks.  “One of our community center kids is one day just riding his bike around the neighborhood, and literally a few weeks later he’s competing in a national cyclocross competition.  This is truly exciting!”

Haley and the Red Zone Cycling team are equally excited.  Following Rivera’s introduction to the team, one of the Red Zone Cycling team parents stopped by Eva Bandman and offered to let Rivera use one of their very expensive, specially-equipped cyclocross bikes.

“This is definitely an example of the sort of large-hearted giving I’d hoped for,” said Haley.

For Rivera, cycling is quickly moving up the chart.  While his first love is still baseball, cycling is making a mad dash near the top of the list.    Rivera competed in the 2012 USGP Derby City Cup this past November.  Expect to see Rivera and other members of the Red Zone Cycling team to continue to compete in the future.

Join us at the 2013 UCI Cyclocross Championships at Eva Bandman Park in February –  It’s going to be fun!

We’re Working for You!

Meet Tahira Wilson

Tahira Wilson’s job is to encourage people to play games. Really! As Recreation Supervisor, she coordinates all the adult athletic leagues offered by Louisville Metro Parks, as well as some of the youth programming, such as cross country and the Hershey’s Track & Field Games event. It takes a lot of work, but Tahira says she’s passionate about what she does. She enjoys working in the community and relishes the opportunity to create programs, too.

Born in Kinston, North Carolina, this self-described “military brat” (her mother served in the armed forces) is well-traveled and has lived in Tennessee, Georgia, California and Germany. The family lived most recently in Radcliff, Kentucky where Tahira attended and graduated from North Hardin High School.

Tahira and her family shared a love for physical fitness. She played basketball and ran track throughout middle and high school, her mother cross-trained and weight-trained daily, and her brother was into football and basketball – which rank among Tahira’s favorite sports, too! So it’s no surprise that she developed an interest in and love for sports.

She went on to the University of Louisville, earning a Bachelor of Science degree in Sports Administration. “I began working in the recreation field at UofL as an undergrad in the Intramural Recreational Gym, and loved everything about it,” explained Tahira. She then took her work experience, knowledge and interest to Indiana University-Bloomington, where she obtained a Master’s Degree in Recreational Sports Administration.

After finishing graduate school, Tahira applied to numerous organizations in the region and finally received a call from Metro Parks. “It feels great to finally be part of the field I am so passionate about,” said Tahira.

When Tahira isn’t on the job, she might be at the movies, or working with her sorority, Zeta Phi Beta, playing basketball and working out – or traveling. Memorable trips to South Korea and the Netherlands remain among her favorite travel experiences.

When asked to offer her career/life ‘philosophy’, her words really do reflect the blend of work and play evident in her life: “Work hard in what you do, but have fun doing it!”