The good people who keep score say the ever-expanding Parklands of Floyds Fork had more than one million visits in the calendar year ending in September – albeit some of them visitors who came back two, four, five and ten times.
So who are these people, what are they up to – and what do they really think of the place?
We’ll begin with Orbin Greene, 69, a fun guy dressed in a bright blue sweatshirt, a wonderfully loud pair of red-and-white shorts, white socks and low-cut tennis shoes who had a ready explanation for his tidy, 400-square-foot plot at The Parklands community garden.
“I’ve always been a gardener,” he said while gazing down respectfully at two very large, black planting pots resting in his garden, “and my wife said I had to get these pots out of the house.”
His $20-a-year site – mixing raised beds with the four of the house-forbidden pots – is one of about 80 in the community garden just off Shelbyville Road that’s run by the Jefferson County Cooperative Extension Service.
The plots are sprawled all over the hill top near those ubiquitous, if not approaching iconic, yellow-and-pale- green silos – looming reminders of the previous owners of the land, and their occupations.
Greene led a tour of the other community gardens, each enriched in fall colors of cabbage green, marigold orange, gourd yellow and pepper red, while also explaining his shorts.
“I also do a lot of walking here,” he said, a venture which allows him to combine his two hobbies.
Greene spoke fondly of the community gardening camaraderie, the friends he’s made, a point of view later backed up by a Jim Kovacs, volunteer community garden manager.
“It’s a year-around garden,” he said, explaining some of the weekend farmers will grow hardy kale, cabbage, asparagus and spring-bearing strawberries.
“We also get a lot of new gardeners. You can always tell by the end of July who will be coming back next year.”
Further down the Beckley Creek Park section of The Parklands, pale-blue wildflowers were mixed with the brighter reds and oranges of the native shrubs and towering trees rising above the walking path at Angler Lake.
Shelbyville Road traffic hummed in the distance, noticeable but not a distraction. The more pleasing sounds were footsteps on the gravel path; the more pleasing sight three ducks cruising calm water in tight formation leaving a perfect “V” in their wake.
Not all Parklands visitors wear hiking boots.
A little horticultural history could be seen at the North Beckley Paddling Access where native tree seedlings planted by eager volunteers a few years ago have now grown to six feet – The Parklands giants-to-be 100 years from now.
Sitting there in the parking lot was a large white van with a four-foot, screaming-red University of Louisville cardinal bird painted on it.
Along with the van came Joe Walker, the lean, athletic-looking U of L men’s cross country coach, himself dressed in bright red and black. The cross-country team, he explained, loves to run the softer trails and footing of the Parklands, his 14-member team then off on a 14-to-16 mile, cross-country trek through fields and woods.
Walker expected to have all of them back to the van on what he termed a “recovery run” in between one hour and 35 minutes and one hour and 45 minutes – roughly a mile every seven minutes.
He’s looking forward to the day a year or so down the road when the Parkland’s almost 20 miles of softer-footing will be open from Shelbyville Road to Bardstown Road.
“We like to come out here,” he said.
Just across the parking lot from Walker two men were getting ready to paddle a kayak on the slightly rain-swollen Floyds Fork.
The pair were Bob Browning and Mark Timmonds, Louisvillians who met in church many years ago, became instant friends, and now meet each fall on “once a year” ventures to fun places.
“We have to hit it when the water level is up,” said Timmonds.
A necessary third partner in this venture was Green Earth Outdoors, the Louisville company that rents canoes, kayaks and paddleboards for trip down Floyds Fork – which actually can get very rowdy in brief spurts after a heavy rain.
Taking much of the guesswork out of that is a web page http://www.theparklands.org/paddling which tells intrepid paddlers exactly how many cubic-feet-per-second of water is running through Floyds Fork every day.
As a general rule anything under 30 cfs will turn a canoe trip into a canoe-carry hike, from 30 to 499 cfs is good for both beginners and experienced paddlers and anything above 1,000 cfs is for people who know what they are doing.
If Floyds Fork rages over 2,000 cfs – and it can after a heavy rain – all potential paddlers are urged to stay home and watch a football game; the access points may be closed anyway.
Browning and Timmonds proudly posed for a good-buddy photo next to a Green Earth Outdoors trailer loaded with red and green kayaks, then headed down river toward Fisherville and its paddling access point – all that information now readily available on a GPS site.
Lewis and Clark – eat your hearts out.
Hikers, joggers, soccer teams and families on bicycles are as common in the Parklands as squirrels and butterflies. The thousands of native flowers and shrubs planted along the paths, roadsides and rest areas were mostly finished blooming, but that only softened the mood; autumn is supposed to look a little brown around the edges.
Three or four dogs were playing inside the fenced-in Barklands of Beckley Creek Park area, their owners huddled up in a tight group talking, no doubt, about dogs the way other groups of huddled parents will talk about their children.
The area near the Barklands gate is distinguished by – if that’s the word – seven pale green fire hydrants evenly placed in thick gravel, with none in immediate use.
The dog park did receive some extra help that day as a group of volunteers scheduled to clean up parts of Floyds Fork went both above and below that mission by digging a trench in the dog park to allow better drainage in one area.
Other volunteers carrying white plastic bags walked the Floyds Fork area picking up trash around the buildings, and along the river.
In addition, about 40 members of the Louisville Chinese Christian Church, 6120 Lovers Lane, were holding a group outreach meeting in a shelter area near the Sprayground and children’s play area.
“This was recommended to us as a great place to meet,” said Wei-An Yu, a fellowship deacon with the church.
He said the church began in Louisville about 30 years ago at the home of a U of L professor as a Sunday school and bible study group, and now has about 120 regular members.
“We like to meet in small groups to unwind, enjoy and socialize,” he said.
Socialize they did, handing out blank name tags to be filled in with newcomer names as their children literally hung out on the nearby playground equipment. Their lunch was Little Caesars ‘Hot-N-Ready” pizza and a bag of ‘Garden Veggie Straws” with sea salt.
A dozen bikers on roaring motorcycles made a lap around the Egg Lawn not long before the Halloween contest began, the mostly pint-sized participants resembling owls, ghouls and a few dreaded characters in-between. The kids used sliced vegetables to stamp patterns and shapes on round discs and were welcome to participate in “spooky science activities” in a nearby classroom.
Just down the road Nation Family Produce of Old Taylorsville Road was selling a wildly decorative assortment of pumpkins, gourds and squash.
“We’re neighbors of The Parklands,” said Carson Nation, “and we’re thankful to be able to come here and sell.”
Further down The Parklands, past the Humana Grand Allee with its billowy collection of native grasses, massive stony fountain and long run of black gum trees turning radiant red on autumnal cue, Marty Huelsman of Fern Creek was preparing to join his wife, Amy, on a kayak trip down Floyds Fork.
Heulsman said he and his wife are anxiously awaiting the next generation of The Parklands – the more remote stretches of river and trail from about Seatonville to Bardstown Road.
“Living in Fern Creek it’s only about 15 minutes out our back door.”
On this day the Huelsmans were putting a kayak in the water at Creekside and getting out at the Cane Run site. They had arranged the trip by parking a vehicle at each place. He said they do it all the time.
Former Louisville-Courier columnist Bob Hill is a historian for The Parklands of Floyds Fork. He travels Floyds Fork writing of the people, the places and the history of the stream within the 20-mile park system - all of which is to be preserved in the Filson Historical Society. Some of Hill's stories appear in A Landscape and its Legacy, the commemorative book for The Parklands of Floyds Fork project. Hill has also compiled a Floyds Fork “Places & Faces” presentation that adds imagery to the words.
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