Mercy Academy senior’s compassion leads to restoration of cemetery

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

By Aaron Henry 
Digital Content Specialist
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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.

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.


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!


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.

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…

Project Update: Beargrass Creek Trail Shared Use Path

By Lisa Hite
Senior Planner
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!

Harold and Louise Senior – thanks for your support!


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

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
e-mail Walter

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

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

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.